Back in 1969, which seems like the old days, Coach Bo Schembechler inherited a terrific group of young men recruited by former coach Bump Elliott and his staff. At this point, it’s too early to tell if coach Jim Harbaugh 46 years later, will have similar advantages as his former coach. Not only did Bo have at his disposal, a group of outstanding athletes-football players, he had a group of studs with great character, excellent values and good study habits. Athletes such as Jim Brandstatter, Jim Betts, Frank Gusich and Mike Keller for example, all attended parochial school.
Then as well as now, attending parochial school was associated with discipline, order, rule, spirituality and of course learning one’s A’s, B’s, and C’s so to speak, or educational excellence. Make no mistake about it, students, as well as student athletes were expected to learn and taught how to learn. These individuals quickly realized the importance of their task and what was expected of them, not only by the nuns or teachers, but by their parents, as well. Simply put, it was a team approach-the school and the family working together to instill human values such as respect, honor, duty, accomplishment, giving and appreciating.
One example comes to mind, taken from Mike Keller’s educational experience in Grand Rapids, Michigan .Attending St. Stephen elementary school, Mike’s second grade teacher was Sister Rosalie who stood approximately 4’10” or 4’11”. The precocious Mike Keller was about 5’6”. It just so happened that Mike had seen the movie Juvenile Delinquents starring Jerry Lewis. In this particular film, there were a number of juvenile punks that were being questioned by the police. These actors acting like real punk were chewing gum, shuffling their feet, while shoving their hands deep into their pockets looking totally disinterested. In class, the next day or so, Mike did something wrong and Sister Rosalie approached him and asked Mike to stand by his seat. As Sister approached, she started to discipline Mike verbally. Impressionable Mike then became the imitator and did his best movie presentation of one of the young punks in the film. According to Mike, all of a sudden, and out of nowhere, little Sister Rosalie smacked him with her famous roundhouse right hand across his punk face. Mike was stunned, stood up quickly at attention. He added “I never messed with her again.” So, what was the lesson that Mike learned very early in life? Don’t mess with the nuns! Mike didn’t say whether or not she was on her tip toes, when she hit him.
Do you think that Mike went home and complained to his parents about corporal punishment, physical abuse, or a poor me attitude? If Mike had gone home and whined to his parents, especially his mother, about that episode, he would have received double the punishment. Of course, there’s more to the story about Mike Keller and his character development. But it is clear, that with a firm base and foundation, Mike had no difficulty in becoming one of Bo’s warriors on the field. He knew about, and learned more about order, affiliation, and abasement, both on the practice field and on those special Saturdays from coach Schembechler. He carried that further, when drafted in the third round by the world champion Dallas Cowboys, under the tutelage of Coach Tom Landry, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt, while learning the famous Flex Defense.