After an undefeated spring football season during the pandemic, the De Pere Redbirds football program is closer than ever – and that bond is most visible in the weight room, where 57 of 59 teammates showed up.
"I think going 7-0 is kind of bringing the morale back, like 'we can do this,'" senior outside linebacker Luke Brosig said. "We have a good enough team to be one of the better teams in this conference. Just like last year, if you guys can bond and play good football, it’s tough to beat."
In the 2021 spring football season, De Pere posted their first winning record since 2015.
"Yeah, it was a big step for the program," head coach Chad Michalkiewicz said. "You know, we talk about this all the time: talent comes and goes but learning how to win is a skill. Sometimes when you get in a rut of losing close games, it's tough to get out of that. You have to learn that mindset and mentality and the way you go about practice and things of that nature."
Players are primarily motivated through Michalkiewicz as he draws on his well of mantras from the leadership course he teaches at De Pere High School. Michalkiewicz estimates that at least 80 percent of today's roster has taken his class.
"Coach has a lot of leadership quotes that he likes to talk about. One of them being the standard is the standard," junior quarterback Gabe Herman said. "We have to meet a standard, whether it’s unknown or known. Every day, every practice, every game."
Michalkiewicz says the team's belief in the behavioral studies he preaches about gives them an edge on the gridiron as a "well-aligned" team.
"All we can control, and what is important to us, is what is within our control, and everything else will take care of itself after that," Michalkiewicz said. "But when you get to Friday night, you have to surrender the outcome. There's an unknown standard of you that's expected on Friday nights to win, and we only control half of that battle. So I think just having that right of mindset and approach each and every day, it allows you to play free and play with a lot of tempo and urgency."
A keystone to running with De Pere's momentum is the continued success of Herman, who threw for 1,044 yards as a sophomore this spring.
"I mean its pretty impressive, even for me to say," Herman said. "Obviously, I hope I have a better year, off stats and just in general, too. Running and just making the right decisions, that’s the most important part of this offense is me being decisive on every play."