Jim McElwain tells team to not look too far down the road, focusing on the now


Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain talks with the media after spring practice on April 9 at Turf Bay in the Indoor Athletic Complex.

It was just four months ago that Jim McElwain received an offer from Athletic Director Michael Alford to become the next head football coach of the Chippewas. 

Now with spring football in full swing and the open spring practice just days away on April 13 at 1 p.m., McElwain already has his players feeling a different type of energy through the program.

Senior defensive back Da'Quaun Jamison would be the first to tell you.

"Coach Mac is the real deal," Jamison said while nodding his head with reassurance. "I believe in what he is bringing here. I'm 100 percent in and I believe everyone else is."

McElwain was given the task of putting his energy into a football team that finished 1-11 in 2018. 

It's clear there is nowhere to go but up for the Chippewas, but how the job will be done is what McElwain has been given the keys to.

His early message to his team — don't think too far down the road.

"Our goal, as we just broke (the huddle), was let's get better today in the classroom and when we get together for meetings let's get a little bit better there," McElwain said. "Let's try to attack each day because as I told them, you don't get today back. There are no do-overs in life, so the most important thing is the now.

"You keep investing in that, and you've got a chance to be successful."

Success is what senior offensive lineman Steve Eipper is looking for. 

A season ago, he said it was hard to watch the senior class, some of his closest friends, go out on the note of no Mid-American Conference wins and double-digit losses. Now, he feels new energy and believes CMU football is in a good spot.

"Since Coach Mac has come in he has brought a whole bunch of new ideas and it's been really good to see how the guys have adapted to that," Eipper said. "If everyone doesn't buy in, it's really hard to see a change. But everyone has and you can see the difference from just the end of last season to this spring."

McElwain has spent time as a coach in some of the larger cities and programs in the country — Louisville (2000-02), Michigan State (2003-05), Oakland Raiders (2006), Alabama (2008-11), Florida (2015-17) and Michigan (2018).

Mount Pleasant is a much smaller town. For McElwain, the adjustment to the living style hasn't been a challenge. 

"You talk about an easy transition and it's because of the people," McElwain said. "People are great, friendly and do everything they can to help you. It's not just the community, but the university itself. Working in tandem, I love that and it's been really good for (his family)."

As far as football goes, it doesn't matter to McElwain where he coaches, he wants to bring the same principles to any program. He has stated time and time again that he is ready to invest in anyone who wants to play for him on the roster.

In February, McElwain talked about a "no dead fish" policy in place, essentially saying you have to bring excitement and energy every day around the team.

It's safe to say that hasn't changed in April. 

"At the end of the day every place is a little bit different and yet every place is a little bit the same," McElwain said. "It's about getting the kids to do what is right, getting them to believe in themselves and really let them have a good time doing it."

McElwain is all about getting his players to believe in his system. He wants everyone playing and working with him to be fully invested.

Jamison said the new coaching staff feels "brotherly" and you can feel the difference every day at practice.

"I would describe this new era as focusing on brotherhood, it's part of our creed and what we stand for," Jamison said. "We're growing closer to each other and hopefully it will translate onto the field.

"The more you care about somebody, the more you want to play for them."

Right now, it seems like everyone in the program wants to play for McElwain.