Captain’s Corner

Mike Diakunczak, Columnist

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For this week’s Captain’s Corner, I decided to switch it up and profile a coach instead of an athlete this year.

Aaron Mershman was named the new offensive line and strength and conditioning coach for the  football team last August. Coming off another 1-9 season and the departure of another offensive lineman coach, Mershman stepped into the role just a month before kickoff for the 2018 season.

Some of his notable accolades includes being a two-year letterman as a tight end at Ball State University, being named to the Mid-American Conference All-Academic team and his serviing as a graduate assistant coach for the Cardinals and then at Bowling Green.

Mershman, who ended his football career just seven years ago, learned a few things that influences coaching role.

“I think the biggest think I took away from [being a player] was humility. Everyone knows who you are in your little community, and then somebody like Ryan Kerrigan proceeds to rip your face off in your redshirt freshman year. I think you kind of re-anchor into the world and realize reality,” said Mershman.

It didn’t take long for the team, especially the offensive line group, to detect Mershman’s humility. One of the first stories he told in camp was how he was recruited to Ball State as a quarterback. He saw one of his teammates, professional football player Keith Wenning, throw a football and immediately wanted to change his role so he could get Wenning on the field. Why? Because Mershman knew it was what best for the team.

A few years after his playing career, Mershman found himself back home in Ohio on the coaching staff for Defiance College. The, Casey Goff, had left to take a head coaching job at The College of New Jersey, and a day-and-a-half later, Mershman was promoted to head coach at 26 years old, the youngest coach in NCAA football. He stepped down as head coach just a year later over controversial actions by the Defiance team.

“It came at me fast. Being 26 years old, and a head coach, you think you know everything and then you realize that there are things outside of your control. If you don’t take care of yourself and those around you, there are things that will come at you that you won’t know how to handle at 26 years old,” said Mershman.

Mershman stayed on his feet and ended up a first-year coach for the Cougars who produced three All-MAC offensive lineman (Tyler Colonno, Lenny Watson, Derek Hendershot) and was the right-hand man to offensive coordinator, Mike Hatcher, to ignite one of the top offenses in the 2018 MAC conference.

The Cougars flipped it around in 2018, going from five straight 1-9 seasons to an historic 8-3 season that gave the Cougars a home bowl game. Despite the success, Mershman, again demonstrates his humility , to explain that there is more to be done.

“I don’t get caught up in records and all that kind of stuff. My goal is to see how many guys use their days to better themselves as much as possible and ignore that Freddy soft voice in the back of the head that says, ‘take the day off, let’s just chill.’ I’m here to encourage these guys to have as many positive days as possible.”

It’s his continuous effort to be the best coach he can be, day after day.

“I feel like I have a strong duty to pay forward for what was done for me by my coaches and men in my life. I was blessed to have some amazing men lead me and I think I have the responsibility and the duty to do the same for the next generation,” Mershman said.

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