Olivet lost the home opener to number four ranked University of St. Francis on Sept. 3. They won their game against Lindenwood University in Belleville, Ill., 25-0, Sept. 10.
The Tigers began practicing for this season long before new students moved to campus.
Meetings and practices filled the majority of the day, as the team prepared for their upcoming season with a new coaching staff, under Head Coach Eric Hehman.
“We would have two practices a day, found out a lot about our team and helped integrate the freshman into our family,” said Tyler Davis, a sophomore cornerback.
“Olivet reached out to me and we thought it was a great opportunity, so we ended up taking it,” Hehman said.
Hehman began his career in football as a graduate assistant at Taylor University in Indiana, after starting there for four years. He has since been the head coach of Malone University in Ohio and Greenville College in Illinois.
Coming alongside Hehman from Malone University is Coach Granville LaCroix, as the Co-Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach.
Graduate Assistant Cole Hagan, who works mainly with running backs, is the only member of the former coaching staff who will return this year.
Greg Youngblood, Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers, Craig Schuler, Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks, Andy Peterson, Defensive Backs/Strength and Conditioning, Jim Noggle, Tight Ends/Operations and Equipment, Ryan Smith, Quality Control/Defensive Line, and Austin Holton, Quality Control/Cornerbacks, round out the coaching staff.
“It has been a great staff, three other guys [Greg Youngblood, Craig Schuler, Andy Peterson] have been head coaches at the college level, so a very good staff as far as experience and working relationship,” Hehmen said.
“We’ve all worked with different people, and have different ways we are accustomed to doing things, but the same principles over all. So with a few minor adjustments, we are able to get things done, and eventually the adjustments become fewer and fewer,” he said.
“The coaching staff is fun to play for because they work tirelessly to make all of us the best football players and the best men that we can be,” Davis said.
After walking on the team last spring, he has since earned a scholarship by working his way into a starting role.
“It was very easy to transition back into being a student athlete because of the great teammates I have, and the opportunity the coaches gave me to compete to get on the field, just like every other player that had been there all year,” Davis said.
Coach Hehman believes that there is more to football than yards or points, and has established five core values for his players to live by, whether on the field, in the classroom, or in their personal life.
“The foundation our team is built on is ‘Make it Better’ in everything you do,” Hehman said, “We don’t necessarily set goals in wins or yards, we simply expect that we will get better every single day.”
In working towards that goal, the coach has established five other core values: honor God, love brothers, tell the truth, compete, and make heroic goals – reach for the stars. Coach Hehman believes that players need to be honest with themselves and seek the greatest outcome for those alongside them in order to achieve success.
“I am very thankful for the group of seniors we have, they really bought in to what the coaches were trying to do, and they live out that second value, love brothers, very well,” Hehman said.
The senior class was incredibly helpful in smoothing over the transition in coaching staff, and Hehman is expecting a lot out of the group heading into the season.
In the first game of the season, the ONU Tigers took a devastating loss against Midland University, 49-21.
“It was shocking,” said Hehman, “Things had been going well in camp, very few mistakes, but when we stepped onto the field, we had all kinds of mental mistakes. But now we can reevaluate where we are and what we need to be working on for the future.”
The Tigers return to Ward Field for a bout with conference rival Trinity International University Sept. 26.
—Connor Pestka, Online Editor