KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Northwest Missouri State coach Adam Dorrel woke up Sunday morning not quite comprehending what took place less than 12 hours earlier.
Dorrel knew later in the day he was headed to his football office to begin preparation with his coaching staff and players for the NCAA Division II Football Championship game.
It was a goal the Bearcats had since mid-January when they returned to school for the spring semester. All the weightlifting, conditioning, running and sweating from January to December was geared to getting to the title game for the third time in four years.
But early in the second quarter against Ferris State last week, it looked like those dreams were going to be dashed. Northwest lost starting cornerback Marcus Jones, starting wide receiver George Sehl and starting quarterback Kyle Zimmerman with 12 minutes left in the second quarter and trailing 13-7.
Northwest wound up winning 35-20.
“I can’t describe the feeling,” Dorrel said. “You go through this euphoria and you don’t realize it until the next morning: We won a game with Jonathan Baker and Randy Schmidt against a great ball club.”
The genius of Dorrel’s coaching style is his belief in everybody in the program and an ability to stay upbeat no matter the adversity that strikes during a game, a season, or even the smallest incident in practice.
The voice goes up when Dorrel is upset, but not far from the bulldog bark comes an infectious smile that rubs off on anybody who is around him.
“I love having him out there,” Northwest senior linebacker Jacob Vollstedt said. “He is high energy and personable. He is a great coach. I am on defense so I don’t always see the bad side and get the brunt of it like the O-lineman might.
“He is high intensity. You have to love that. You don’t want someone out there letting you go through the motions, letting you back off. If he catches anyone slacking off, he is going to let them know.”
It is that drive that has Northwest (14-0) in another championship game. The Bearcats will take on North Alabama (11-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
An important part for Dorrel is for his players to enjoy the process of winning games no matter how mundane some of the activities are leading up to a game.
The players, Vollstedt said, celebrated last Saturday’s victory and enjoyed each other’s company. By 4 p.m. Sunday, it was back to work.
As the No. 1-ranked Northwest men’s basketball team were leaving Bearcat Arena early Sunday evening after its ninth straight win to start the season, football players and coaches were streaming into Lamkin Athletic Center to watch film.
Judging by the stoic look on many of the players’ faces, you would never know that a day earlier they had pulled off one of the most remarkable playoff victories in Bearcat history. They were back at work and serious in getting ready for North Alabama.
The players demonstrated an attitude that any employer would love to see in their employees.
“I really believe and our staff believes that anybody who goes through our culture in five years, that once they graduate, I really feel like they are ahead in the work place,” Dorrel said.
“These guys will tell you it is not always easy. It is challenging. It is emotional at times. I think we do a good job of keeping things in perspective and having fun and giving guys great life skills.”
Obviously, you work hard to win games. For Dorrel, the process means more than wins and losses.
“I hope I am a coach who is remembered who cared about kids and worked hard,” Dorrel said. “I have never been a guy who worried about winning and losing, as crazy as it sounds.
“My thought is if you put energy into kids and treat kids fairly and come to work every day and smile, I think it goes a long way in a football program.”
The players recognize all the things Dorrel and the coaching staff provide to make them better on and off the field.
“I think our coaching staff, like the players, has gotten better every year since I have been here, schematically and understanding different concepts,” Vollstedt said. “I think they are as good as it gets. Coach Rich Wright on the defensive side is the real deal.”
Dorrel simply has the ability to get the best out of everyone around him. It is one of the reasons how he has compiled a 75-8 record and two national championships in his six seasons at Northwest. And the Bearcats are now one win away from a third one.
“He has meant a lot,” said senior defensive end Collin Bevins. “The energy he brings to the practice field every day and the energy he brings to the film room is awesome and second to none. I am really glad I came here and played under him for four years.
“He should go down as one of the best coaches in Northwest history.”