Delaware football coach finds success in longevity [VIDEO]

 Wesley football players run through drills in Dover during a preseason practice. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Wesley football players run through drills in Dover during a preseason practice. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

As Wesley College’s Mike Drass closes in on his 200th win as head coach, we sat down to talk about the Wolverines’ success.

For 22 years, coach Mike Drass has roamed the sidelines at Wesley College’s football complex in Dover. He’s shouted and hollered, cajoling players to correct mistakes and get in shape. When he sat down for an interview earlier this month, Drass had nearly completely lost his voice after just one day of practice. “You can tell in my voice right now, yesterday was not a fun day for people,” Drass said hoarsely.   

As head coach since 1993, Drass has compiled an impressive record of 198 wins and just 54 losses. That equals a winning percentage of .785. Wesley has reached the NCAA Division III playoffs 11 times.

He credits that success to strong support from Wesley College leaders, as well as the strong local football culture that makes for good recruiting. “We have great football here in Delaware, that Maryland/D.C./Baltimore corridor, south Jersey, southeastern Pa., [there is] just great football all over us. And we recruit hard to bring the best players in here.”

Despite such tremendous success at the lower rung of the college football ladder, Drass has not taken advantage of that success by moving up to a bigger school or higher division. That’s because he doesn’t want his job to be solely about football.

“I’ve had some friends coach at higher levels, and it really becomes more just about football,” Drass said. “I want to be a coach that’s involved in my player’s lives. I want to be somebody that they can look at and know that they can count on.”

And while Drass said he loves coaching football, his job at Wesley is about more than just X’s and O’s. “I want to be a guy that matters in their lives, and I think on this level you can do that and have those relationships and work with people and have them grow and mature in front of your eyes.”

As a Division III program, Wesley gets less attention compared to the state’s Div. I FCS schools, the University of Delaware and Delaware State. But Drass doesn’t feel overlooked. “I’ve never felt that way,” Drass said. “I know the coaches at Del State, good guys…The guys at Delaware are great, coach Brock’s a great guy…We’re all at different levels of competition.”

Wesley will see more competition in the region than in recent years. After several years as an independent, the team is now part of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, a newly combined ten-team league. “As an independent, we were flying all over the country, playing in California last year, playing in Alabama, we’ve been to Texas, Florida, Maine, Indiana, you name it, we’ve been everywhere. Now we’ll be playing more of a regional schedule.”

Wesley opens their season on Sept. 12 at Frostburg State in western Maryland. They return to Dover to host Christopher Newport University for their home opener on Sept. 19. 

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