MUST READ: Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck writes piece in The Players’ Tribune

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Western Michigan head football coach P.J. Fleck is easily one of the hottest teams in college football. He’s just one of two head coaches in FBS currently manning an undefeated squad heading into championship week and he’s without question one of the trendier names when it comes to potential head coaching vacancies after the season.

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And even though Fleck and the WMU brass is more than aware of the never-ending rumors swirling around him potentially leaving, Fleck remains open and honest and committed to finishing the best season in Bronco history.

Earlier on Wednesday, the infectious Fleck wrote and submitted his own story on The Players’ Tribune, detailing his story on becoming the head coach at Western Michigan and his approach, a style that was mocked early on in his career but is now being revered and respected immensely. One big thing that one always thinks of when hearing the name “Fleck” is his locker room speeches, and the head coach goes in-depth on why they are so important to him.

I’ve always been a big believer in motivational speeches. I write a pregame speech for my guys every single week before we take the field. When I’m writing it, I start by trying to envision how the game will play out, and then I’ll reflect back on what the theme of the week was — how we practiced, and was there a particular experience that I can draw from to bring us together? I pull all that stuff together, and the result is what I’ll use to motivate my players before we take the field.

p-j-fleckHe opens the piece on TPT reminiscing on a game back in 2014 when the Broncos were 2-3 at the time. They were trailing to Ball State at halftime and had allowed 31 points through the first 30 minutes. It was not one of his patented Fleck speeches, certainly not one college football fans think of today. However, he claims it to be the most “effective” speech, albeit not the “best” one, that he has ever given to his players. And all it was, was ten simple words.

“When are you going to be tired of being average?”

Western Michigan not only went on to win that game, outscoring BSU 28-7 in the second half, but it sparked a six-game winning streak en route to an 8-4 record and a bid in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Fleck continues on, going back to his always positive outlook on things in not just sports, but life in general. He stems back to a dark time in his life, February of 2011, when he lost a son to a heart condition shortly after being born. Seemingly from that point on, Fleck dedicated his life, his passion of football, to his late son and honoring his life.

In fact, that’s where the famous “Row the Boat” mantra surrounding Western Michigan faithful comes in.

So with my son in mind, I invented this phrase you might have heard: Row the boat. It has nothing to do with football, or sports really. It’s just a mindset.

Rowing the boat means doing things the right way, and accepting the results that come. It’s about being dedicated to the process of winning — winning every single day by being the very best version of you. It’s about not ignoring the past, but instead always trying to learn from it in order to get better. And more than anything, it’s about creating a community that has a positive aura, with each individual contributing. Together, through love and trust, you all push forward together.

p-j-fleck2He continues on the “Row the boat” saying and breaking down into three parts: the oar, the boat, and the compass, and how all three each signify something different that is deemed crucial in one’s life.

Fleck remembers one particular moment, when he was working on his first recruiting classes. He talks of a high school in Illinois that produced a wide receiver by the name of Corey Davis. Fleck recalls having that school’s coach, whom he had a great relationship with, basically demanding he take in Davis to his program as part of his first recruiting class at Western.

It’s safe to say that worked out pretty well.

I’d had plenty of conversations with Ron, but I couldn’t recall ever hearing him speak so passionately about a player.

Corey had had a pretty tough upbringing, and as a result he really struggled academically for most of his life. But as a junior in high school, he had moved in with his friends’ family and started turning things around. He realized that it was on him to make a change. Not long after getting to know Corey, we fully believed in him.

Four years later, he’s done everything you have to do in order to row the boat.

For Corey to get admitted to Western Michigan, he had to push himself academically in ways he never had before. He didn’t know if he could do it because he had never tried to before. But he made it.

Since he arrived on campus, Corey has served as an example for every single player on the team. When I tell people to change their best every day, I point to Corey. Last Friday, in our victory over Toledo, he became the all-time leader in receiving yards in NCAA history. As a former wide receiver, I can’t tell you how proud that makes me. But more impressive than the record is what he’s done off the field. Corey has molded himself into a young man with a GPA above 3.0 and an extremely bright future in whatever he chooses to pursue after he’s finished with the NFL.

That’s what rowing the boat is all about.

And even with the stories circulating on his future beyond this season, Fleck can say “with certainty” that being a part of the Western Michigan football program and the community of Kalamazoo is one of if not the greatest place to be for him and his family.

Coaching has taken me all over the country, from coast to coast. But of everywhere I’ve ever lived, I can say with certainty that Kalamazoo is my favorite.

This is a serving, giving community where people really support each other. There’s a population of 150,000 people in a five-mile radius, so there’s a lot going on in a small area. And even in the short time I’ve been here, I’ve gotten watch it grow and change so much.

This is a place where people work hard and treat others well, which is a big part of how our program has been built.

He is fully aware that he can only control so much as a program, being on a smaller scale despite an undefeated record. In a more favorable system, Fleck and his Broncos would have a chance against the big boys of college football to really show themselves and the country what they are capable of. No matter the situation, however, Fleck is on a mission to continue building the program. And there’s only one way to do so.

Do you really need to ask?

If you’d like to read the piece produced by Fleck in its entirety, you can click here.

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Posted by Alex Muller
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MSU Graduate. Just a city boy born and raised in south Detroit. Baseball is life, a pitcher at heart. Freelance writer for MIPrepZone (News-Herald, Press & Guide).