MARQUETTE, MI – Day 1 of the All-Star week is in the books. What a day! All of the players checked in and each team completed two practices. Both teams got to practice once in the Dome, and for many, it was the first time being in the Dome and playing on the turf. The coaches talked early and often about making the most of their opportunities and taking advantage of the time here to make new friends.
However, even with football in the front of everyone’s mind again, the highlight of the day was the food drive which benefitted the Beacon House food pantry. Over 800 pounds of food was collected and donated by the players, and it came at the perfect time for the Beacon House.
A Beacon House representative said “Our cupboards were almost completely empty, and we were praying for something to happen that would help us”. That something was the generosity of the All-Star players and their families.
The Beacon House provides housing for people who have loved ones receiving medical care in the Marquette area. It is an organization that survives on donations from the U.P. community. Steve Mariucci and Tom Izzo, both Iron Mountain natives, also support the Beacon House through their celebrity golf outing each year. “This food stocked our pantry, and will keep us full for many months. We thank you for your generosity.”
Upon arriving, the players did not have much chance to relax. After getting settled into their rooms and having a quick lunch, there was a brief team meeting with all participants. Once the general expectations were given, the group split up and each team began their practices.
East head coach Coach Jeff Olson, whose Ishpeming Hematites were recently crowned State Champions, brought two of his own staff with him. Olson has coached twice before in the All-Star Game. The East team had a very brief meeting with the players, then got right into practice. They worked more individually in their position groups to start with, getting their basic techniques refined before putting it all together in full formations. By the second practice, players got enough repetitions to feel more comfortable with each other and plays began to look more smoothly. The coaches regularly met before and after practice to discuss personnel and where players could be moved to best suit their strengths. Olson’s Ishpeming staff include Scott Syrjala (2008 All-Star Coach) and Dion Brown. The other East staff includes Marty Spencer (2009 All-Star Coach), Brad Wiljanen (Bark River-Harris), Gordi Campbell and Michael Lynn (Sault Ste Marie).
Coach Joe Reddinger of North Dickinson also had a quick team meeting, then jumped right into practice. The West team also broke up and spent time in individual drills with different groups working on position-specific skills and techniques. The quarterbacks, receivers and backs started to develop some chemistry, and the lineman really began to settle in and work well with each other by the end of the second practice. As with the East, the West spent some time working as a whole group to see how the pieces will all fit together. Reddinger brought Mike Christian from his own staff, and the other West coaches include: Jerry Reddinger (Joe’s brother) from Kingsford, Chad Brandt and Logan Carlson from Stephenson and Troy Reuter from Menominee.
It is hard to tell at this point which team has an advantage. Both teams are working hard to figure out their personnel and where each player can help the team in the best way. We will have to see how the week progresses, but both teams look to be very focused on their own game plans.
Other All-Star Updates: Econo Foods and Super One groceries also donated power bars, sports drinks and snacks for all of the players and coaches, which will be given out as the week progresses. With the players having been away from football for quite some time, they will need the extra nutrition between meals to keep their energy peaking.
Day 2 (Tuesday) will see everyone settle in to a regular routine of two practices, along with Media Day in the evening. Team and individual pictures will be taken and players will be available for interviews to any attending media.
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