Ostrowsky makes immediate impact on players

Jon Young

Changing a program isn’t an easy job, but it can be made easier if surrounded by an experienced staff.
That’s exactly what first year head coach Chris Ostrowsky has done by adding four former Division I athletes to his staff.

Brain Newberry, Marcus Knight, Joe Coniglio and John Russell have been brought in to help boost the Wildcats on both sides of the ball.

“I think the first thing that you have to do is surround yourself with quality, knowledgeable people,” Ostrowsky said. “I think we’ve done that for sure.”

Newberry, who was a defensive back at Baylor University, has been named defensive coordinator. He has coached at multiple schools. His last stop was a defensive coordinator position at Sewanee.

Ostrowsky has known Newberry for 13 years as they worked together at Washington and Lee University. Ostrowsky said he’s a positive addition to the team.

“He brings as much continuity and consistency to the program on the defensive side that I could ask for, in terms of matching what we do offensively philosophy wise.” Ostrowsky said. “I know what he’s about, I know what his hearts about, I think he’s going to be a phenomenal addition to what we have going on.”

On the offensive end, the Wildcats have added Knight as their wide receiver coach. Knight played on the 1997 University of Michigan Rose Bowl Championship team.

“On the surface he brings the wow factor, but when you really break it down he’s a great technician a great teacher, someone who knows fundamentals,” Ostrowsky said.

Knight was named All-Big Ten second team in 1999 and he also played for the Oakland Raiders during the 2000-02 seasons before continuing his professional career in the Arena Football League. Ostrowsky said his talent stretches further than the field.

“I’ve been around a lot of great players who couldn’t coach, so I don’t think his playing ability has anything to do with his coaching,” Ostrowsky said. “He’s a good football coach and I think he’s a better man than he is a coach.”

Coniglio comes to NMU after spending the last three years as a defensive coach at Kent State University. He played college ball at Miami University of Ohio where he earned third-team All-MAC honors in his final two seasons. He will be the strength and conditioning coach and defensive line coach.

The newest addition to the staff is John Russell, who played at the University of Louisville. He will help sure up the pass defense as assistant defensive backs coach.

The addition to the staff isn’t the only thing different about this year’s team. Ostrowsky has become the first NMU coach to require all his athletes to take part in the Superior Edge volunteer program.

“I think it’s critical for us to engage the campus, to engage academia,” Ostrowsky said. “I think Superior Edge gives us that first step.”

Ostrowsky said winning games is important but he wants to build a legacy that runs deeper than that, and Superior Edge helps in that regard.

“I don’t want to just win championships,” Ostrowsky said. “I want to finish this and say the foundation of this program was built to last, in terms of academics, in terms of athletics, in terms of our performance on the field. I think that this is a giant step for us, to get involved with the community via the campus.”

In addition to the new coaches and Superior Edge policy, the ’Cats have signed 26 incoming freshmen for the 2012 season.

Ostrowsky said he’s excited for the incoming class that consists of 13 players on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

“I think what I’m most proud about is the symmetry in which we went about recruiting,” Ostrowsky said. “I think we’ve gotten faster; we’ve brought in two outstanding tailbacks, two outstanding quarterbacks to create that competition to create that edge.”

The ’Cats will be in action at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 21 at the Superior Dome for their annual spring game.