Between Life and Football
Head football coach Dan Enos talks mentorship and criticism
Central Michigan University head football coach Dan Enos will trudge into the most crucial year of his coaching career Thursday.
Weeks ahead of the 2014 season, Enos took some time to reflect on his critics, his plans for the future and one of the best compliments he has ever received, during his time at the helm of CMU’s premier varsity sport.
Q: What is special or unique about the 2014 Chippewas?
A: Our group of seniors. From the day the season ended last year to today, they’ve taken a lot of ownership for everything. It’s been really neat to see them embrace the leadership part of the job. Being able to see them grow like that has been really special.
Q: What is it like coaching a senior who you recruited four or five years ago in his last game as a Chippewa? What is that last Saturday afternoon like for both of you?
A: It’s very emotional. When they come here they are all in different places maturity wise. This is a very crucial age for these guys. That’s one of the joys of being a college football coach. We take the impact that we have on our players’ lives very seriously here. So that last game is one that everyone remembers when you look back on the larger picture of a player’s career.
Q: What is the lesson you want your players to look back on and think “Coach Enos taught me that?”
A: Doing the right thing. I want them to say that when things get hard, he taught me to do the right thing. It might not always be the most popular or the easiest thing to do. I always tell them, a boy does what he wants to do but a man does what he has to do. Those are the types of lessons we try to teach these guys everyday.
Q: Every football player idolizes other players. Did you ever think you would be a head coach? Did you idolize any coaches growing up?
A: I loved Bill Walsh when I was a kid. Nobody was throwing the ball as much as he was back then. It was mesmerizing to me how he used all his wide receivers and tight ends. That’s why we run the west coast system here. The affect it had on me growing up is something I’ll always remember.
Q: What about this community? What are some things you enjoy about Mount Pleasant?
A: I usually like to go out to dinner with my family. The best times I have are with my kids. I have a 13-year-old and an 8-year-old. They are both busy with sports, too. We are all really busy but we find time for each other. That’s really important to me.
Q: Have you ever thought about leaving CMU to coach anywhere else?
A: I think about the task at hand. I’m doing a great job here with some great people. I don’t get ahead of myself. I’ve seen people make that mistake before and it usually doesn’t work out for them. God has a plan for me and my family. It’s all going to work out. I focus on doing the best job I can and enjoying myself while doing it.
Q: Is there ever a point, perhaps after a bad loss, that you force yourself to turn football off and focus on other aspects of life? Or is CMU football absolutely consuming?
A: When I get home, man, it’s off. When I was young in my career, I used to take things very personally. It would have an effect on me when I was home with my family. But I’ve learned to put things in perspective. When I get home, I try to focus on (family) as much as I possibly can. They’ve been great about all of it.
Q: How do you deal with criticism? Are you aware of your detractors and the “Fire Enos” critics?
A: I don’t think about them at all. Here is what I know: I know way more than those people do. They don’t know anything. I know in my heart that I’m doing a great job and I’m doing things the right way. I think having played quarterback my entire career has helped me deal with it. I’ve been getting criticized my whole life. I’ve built up some thick skin over the years. A lot of times I hear about things people are saying and I just laugh because they don’t know what they are talking about.
Q: Some people are calling this season a defining moment in your career. As you reflect on your time at CMU, what has it meant to you as a coach and a person?
A: I’ve grown so much. It’s been great. I’ve found out a lot about myself both personally and professionally. My family has grown with me. The big thing I’ll take away from it is so many relationships that I’ve developed here. It’s been just unreal.
Q: Right around this time of year, what is the thing that excites you the most about a new season?
A: Our team. I love seeing our players and team work hard. There is a sense of family there. I’ll ask our players for feedback a lot (right before the season starts). All these guys will talk about their bonds with their coaches and fellow players, especially the seniors. That’s an exciting feeling.
Q: What is it like being in charge of what in many ways is two families?
A: It’s a lot of work. I don’t tell my family everything. The same way, there a lot of things that find their way into my office that nobody knows I have to deal with. Everybody (in both families) is going through stuff. It can be hard but it’s gratifying because we are doing it with great people.
Q: Last year when you started 1-4, what do you say to the team as your begin to prepare of that sixth game? Does your philosophy change at that point?
A: I know it sounds like a huge cliché, but you have to just take things one game at a time. It’s so true. I draw a lot of comparisons to the NHL or NBA. You can lose one NHL game 7-0 but you can change everything by getting the next one. That’s the mentality we take. In order to do that you have to have players and coaches that all believe in one another and we do.
Q: What do you want the lasting impressions of the Central Michigan University community to be when they reflect on Dan Enos?
A: That he recruited the right kind of people. He made academics and being a good person a priority. I had one former players father write me a note when his son graduated. It said that every day he laid down to go to bed he thanked God that Dan Enos was his coach. So that’s how I deal with the criticism. I read notes like that and realize that everything is worthwhile.