Football: Freier coming home to be Wingers' head coach
For the fifth time in four seasons, Red Wing will have a new head football coach. On Monday, Activities Director John Miller announced via Twitter that Nate Freier, pending school board approval, will take over the program.
Freier is a Red Wing graduate, and as a senior played on the 1983 state semifinalist team. Freier was recently the head coach at Boiling Springs (Penn.) High School, where he resigned in December after an 0-10 season that began with the death of his father.
Coming home has been on Freier's mind before, but with the loss of his father, and his wife's connection to the state, it was finally time.
“Every other time (the job has) been open, I've been interested,” Freier said Monday evening. “The second and most compelling reason 'why now' is its the right time. Before that, I had been committed to a football team in Pennsylvania. It just wasn't the right time for me to give up on those dedicated players in Pennsylvania. A number of personal things that have occurred over the last year, and it was just an ideal time to return home and do what I've always wanted to do.”
And make no mistake, Freier wants to be in Red Wing. A 20-year career in the Army, and a current position as a research professor at the U.S. Army War College, means Freier had a career path that did not need to involve uprooting his family to relocate to be a coach.
“Here's the bottom line. I will tell you that I have wanted to come home and be the Red Wing football coach since I left in 1984 to go to college,” Freier said. “I want to do it for all the right reasons. I'm a son of Red Wing, and I'm committed to the town and being a Winger. This opportunity is awe-inspiring and amazing. People don't get the opportunity to do their dream job. I've found the space and opportunity to do that. I'm ready to come back and get things back on track.”
There is a lot to do to get the program back to where Freier left it. Red Wing finished 0-9 this past season, and has had to deal with national headlines regarding the resignation of John Ott five games into the 2016 season amid allegations of political harassment and unfair treatment that were announced during a school board meeting two days prior.
“Based on where the team has been the last four years, the main thing is to establish a durable relationship with players, parents and fans,” Freier said. “I'm a son of Red Wing. I've never left my roots, I've carried them all over the world and done interesting and important things as a soldier and as an analyst. But my mission now is with the football team, the parents, the district and the wider Winger family. Out first order of business is a competitive and committed football team. A lot of history has gone on since I left. In my mind, I left Red Wing football in November of 1983, after the state semifinal game. As a result of that, I have unfinished business in Red Wing.”
Where Freier starts with his new team is best summed up as “hustle,” a word repeated at least a dozen times over a nearly half-hour phone call. Freier is adamant about effort and discipline and intensity. But he's also not going to always be the one to demand results.
“I have a couple of priorities: establish a cultures of hustle, and to focus on getting teammates leading teammates, to get kids that are already excited to get their classmates excited,” Freier said. “That objective is very important. We'll start as soon as we can. There's a transition period with the move from Pennsylvania, but I will make that my top priority.”
A self-described “power” football coach, Freier said he already has tape on hand to start his evaluation process, both of the Wingers and of opponents. Time in the weight room, and schemes that rely on instinct will be used to get Red Wing to win on and off the field.
“We have to get the team competing early. Me experience is that if you get kids competing early, peer to peer, you start generating more buzz and excitement,” Freier said. “That way, you're more prepared for opportunities in the fall. Strength and conditioning and the competition between the athletes gets kids to push their limits and be better competitors.”
There is a lot for Freier to do before the season, and that starts with assembling a staff, which he said is in the works. There's also the move, buying a house, finding jobs for he and his wife, and getting his middle-school aged twin sons, the last of five children, enrolled in school.
That will all happen in time. In the meantime, there is the hope to return Red Wing football to where it was when Freier last donned a Winger jersey.
“I'm a patient but very intense coach,” Freier said. “I love the sport. I love the game. But what I've reflected on over the last few weeks, I can say without hesitation that I am who I am because of Red Wing football. That's why I want to come back. I want to give back to the community what I received 30 years ago.”