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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Dallas Wiertella
Dallas Wiertella
Multimedia Editor

Through my experience here at the North Wind I have been able to have the privilege of highlighting students through all forms of multimedia journalism. Whether I'm in front or behind the camera, I aim...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Ostrowsky’s experience can lead NMU to success

As the 2016 spring football season comes to a close and the team focuses on the next step toward their regular season, the program continues to search for its first winning season in seven years and just its second in 14 years.

Player veterans have come and gone, but the consistent leadership and experience lays with the passionate head coach Chris Ostrowsky who still believes he’s living a dream come true.

“Football is who I am, and once it’s in your heart, you can’t get it out,” Ostrowsky said. “When I am a 40-year-old man and can go into a locker room the same way I did 20 years ago, it’s extraordinary.”re-Ostrowky1

Heading into his fifth season as NMU’s head coach, the rebuilding process hasn’t been the first of its kind in the Jersey coach’s career.

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From high school coaching gigs, Division III ball to Division I coaching, he has seen every facet college football has to offer.

The story began for the small town kid in Roselle Park, New Jersey. The young Ostrowsky was son to Hank Ostrowsky, a man who went through the successes and struggles as a restaurant owner and has inspired his son every day of his life.

“He was my best friend and my hero who showed strength and how to be a man,” Ostrowsky said. “He knew how to treat people, be a standup guy and I always wanted to be just like him growing up, and I still do.”

He took that inspiration and applied it to his biggest passion from his time as a child: football.

Ostrowsky always knew the game was going to be a part of his life, and he spent his time doodling plays in history class instead of working on homework. The concentration he put toward sports translated into great high school careers, participating in three athletics with a main focus toward football in the sports-driven town. Ostrowsky’s quarterback play led Roselle Park High to three state championship participants, with him starting each game. Receiving all-conference and all-state honors would lead to a college scholarship at Jersey City State College.

“I had a lot of great memories playing college ball,” Ostrowsky said. “It made me realize the focal points of a quarterback’s game.”

When his playing days were over, Ostrowsky stayed with Jersey City State College as the quarterbacks’ coach.

A few years later, Ostrowsky had his first opportunity to prove his capability to rebuild a football program when he inherited the East Side High School head coaching job in Newark. The 24-year-old didn’t initially get the job on first hire, but the older and more experienced man, who received the job over Ostrowsky, quit after the first team meeting. The program, after all, had lost 36 games straight before Ostrowsky arrived and had only won three games in nine seasons. Yet in five seasons with the team, Ostrowsky brought the notorious losing program to a pair of playoff appearances, with two coach of the year awards. The program won more games in Ostrowsky’s five years than it had ever won in its entire history prior.

“For as much of an impact as I might have had on those kids, they had just as much on my life as well,” Ostrowsky said.

With success came Ostrowsky’s college opportunity to coach the quarterbacks at his first Division I school, which he turned down because of loyalty for his high school players. He instantly regretted the decision once he turned down the job, but two years later his opportunity would come knocking again when he became Washington and Lee University’s offensive coordinator.

The new challenge frightened Ostrowsky to reach the next level, but it proved to be just another stepping stone in his career. After a 6-4 finish in 2004, another assistant job opened up for Ostrowsky three years later, this time bringing him back to the east coast at Widener University in the big football city of Philadelphia. Widener is the third most successful Division III program in America, and Ostrowsky’s coaching continued the tradition with great offensive numbers, even breaking school quarterback records.

Continued success in Division III’s top program brought Ostrowsky to college football’s top stage when Division I North Eastern University out of Boston hired him as the running backs’ coach. The move was big for the  father of two baby sons, but after just 18 months on the new job, Ostrowsky earned the promotion to offensive coordinator.

But as things were rolling well in his third season at Northeastern, the program was seven years removed from its last winning season, and as financial struggles were hitting the university’s athletic department, the school’s board of trustees voted to discontinue the football program.

“It was tragic,” Ostrowsky said. “My wife was pregnant and we loved the city we were living in. The university tried having me market other sports, but I would have rather they thrown me off the bridge than do anything but football.”

As job interviews came and went, the one that stood out to Ostrowsky was Northern Michigan University’s then-coach Bernie Anderson who offered him the offensive coordinator position. The thought of harsh winters in Michigan was a tough sell to his wife, but after a visit to the campus, they were instantly sold.

The move paid off for the Ostrowsky family, as almost one year to the exact date of his hire, he was promoted to head coach of NMU football.

Now here he finds himself again, building another football program toward what he and all Wildcat fans hope will be a powerhouse football program that can compete for GLIAC titles for years to come. Ostrowsky said he understands the seriousness that comes with a Division II head coach job.

“When you’re a head coach of a scholarship program, it’s like you’re the CEO of a company,” Ostrowsky said. “There are many twists and turns, ups and downs that have to be managed, and I love that part. The game is everything that’s indicative of life. You have to be tough to survive—you have to be understanding, accountable and able to stand on your own two feet or whatever you’re looking at will be taken away from you, and that’s life. You have to play hurt and come to work every day, and that’s how life works.”

Through his four years as head coach, his teams have showed ups and downs each season but came closest to earning a winning record last season with a 5-6 finish. The last of Anderson’s recruits have graduated, and all Wildcats taking the field now will be Ostrowsky’s players.

His career, primarily built on quarterback play, has groomed a now senior quarterback in Shaye Brown whose passing performances have competed amongst the top of the leagues and has broken program single-game records.

While the journey toward finally earning a winning record for the program continues, Ostrowsky has the motivation to try to bring glory back to NMU.

“It’s been an exciting ride,” Ostrowsky said. “We’ve had tons of ups and downs, and we feel we’re on the right track this fall. We have a great culture with players believing in our direction. It’s a great time to be a Wildcat and see this program turn into a dominant GLIAC school that has been a long time coming.”

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