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College Football: Medeck’s mind is made up he’s a Raider for life

For 15 seasons Greg Medeck has been the head coach of the Central Lakes College Raiders, but bigger programs know who he is.

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Central Lakes College head football coach Greg Medeck works with his players Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Brainerd.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Greg Medeck began his 15th season as head coach of the Central Lakes College Raiders football team Monday.

Granted one of those seasons was spent on sabbatical examining other football programs while evaluating and improving his own. Another year was lost to COVID-19. So when CLC’s season kicks off 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls, the same question the Brainerd Dispatch sports department asks itself every year will be asked again — what is he still doing here?

The question is meant as a compliment. Medeck is young. He’s articulate, as you’ll see in his comments below. He’s successful on the field with seven state championship appearances, six bowl game appearances and a 100-31 career record. Off the field, CLC’s football program has been quiet; free of loud scandals or misconduct. In other words, Medeck owns a resume that should entice many four-year institutes. And they’ve come calling, but Medeck isn’t answering.

“Sometimes it sounds like you’re lacking ambition if you don’t seek other opportunities bigger, greater, better, but I don’t see it that way,” Medeck said. “The joy of coaching football isn’t something I think could grow in a different environment. I just like it here. This is all I need for me to feel fulfilled as a coach.”

Raiders football sideline.
Central Lakes College Raiders head coach Greg Medeck, in white shirt, watches from the sideline during a Raiders football game from September 2021, at Findorff Athletic Complex at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

CLC has been Medeck’s home longer than his 15 years as head coach. He played for the Raiders from 1997-98 before transferring to St. Olaf College. He returned as an assistant coach and advanced to the head spot in 2007. He recalls those first years as a player as pivotal to his development into adulthood.

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When asked about the diminishing number of junior college football teams in Minnesota, Medeck was passionate with his response. His reasoning seemed to come from a place deeper than logic. The Minnesota College Athletic Conference has just seven teams remaining when a few years ago 12 colleges rostered squads with an eye toward expansion.

“I think it does wonders for young men who need an opportunity and it can be exactly what they need,” Medeck said. “It can be life-changing for them. It was for me 25 years ago. Totally altered the course of my life coming here and having the opportunity to play. It gave me the direction that was much needed at that time. I hope that we sustain it. I’m so thankful I have the support of our administration.”

That support is one reason Medeck is more than content with staying at Central Lakes.

“Greg is an outstanding coach because he believes in the work we do to help students ‘build their futures’ as our mission states,” Hara Charlier President of Central Lakes College said. “He brings passion and pride to the field to help students grow academically, athletically and as individuals. Greg leads by example and put his heart into giving each player the tools and support needed to reach their full potential. The college community is excited to cheer on the Raiders this season.”Charlier views football and all CLC athletics as extensions of the classroom. She said they’re vital to CLC’s mission statement as they provide opportunities for students to serve as leaders, build character and provide a sense of campus and community pride. She also believes having athletics on campus gives students the full college experience. She stressed it’s not just athletics either but art and music as well.

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Greg Medeck

While most people know him as a coach, Medeck’s life isn’t just wrapped up in just football. In fact, he doesn’t like to be labeled a coach. He feels he contributes to CLC more than just on the football field. He values his teaching position and his contribution to CLC’s mission in diverse ways.

“Our faculty are critical partners in our quest to build futures,” Charlier said. “As such, they wear many hats. While it’s obvious Greg is a gifted football coach, he’s much more. He coaches football because it helps students grow, learn and create a path to success. Like all of our faculty, he contributes to the work of the collge in many ways. In addition to his talent with our athletes, he is an inspiring instructor, a trusted leader on campus and a passionate advocate for student success. He’s an outstanding colleague and helps us to be better together.”

He also loves the Brainerd lakes area as does his family who he said is his No. 1 priority. He wants to raise his children here.

“I am able to recognize that and intentionally choose to live and work here,” Medeck said. “This is an incredible place for our children to grow up and I am so proud of the fact that (my wife) Alison and I have been able to put roots down here.”

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In a different situation, he wouldn’t be so open about not wanting to leave. In his current position, he’s not worried about contract leverage.

“That’s not the game that I play nor is it with the institution that I work for,” Medeck said. “They aren’t going to come back and counteroffer with more money or anything. That’s not how things work at our level. I am where I’m at because I want to be there. I do believe that my institute is grateful for the work that I put in and it’s a great partnership that way.”

Another great partnership is with his assistant coaches. Medeck spent 10 minutes praising his staff. His philosophy with his coaching staff is mentorship first, football second. His assistants have a background in or around education. The game knowledge can come later.

“I intentionally try to surround myself — whether it’s coaching staff, student-athletes and my social circle — with good people who can help support things in a healthy and productive manner,” Medeck said. “I’ve been very proud of the fact that the guys I bring on to coach alongside me here all basically have some sort of background in education. That's not always the case in the world of college football. There are a lot of college football experts out there that know the game. I’d rather find somebody who is a teacher, that’s in education and that’s a mentor and have them learn the game of football than have an expert in football and have them try to learn how to work with young men.”

Shane Jordan is one of those assistants along with Riley Atkinson, Jordan Getty, Dave Bostrom and Troy Schreifels. Jordan’s been with Medeck for 11 seasons and when he’s not teaching or coaching with Medeck he’s leading the Brainerd High School softball team.

“He’s such a people first and education first coach,” Jordan said. “Football is a huge part of his life and a huge part of what his role is at Central Lakes College, but he understands it’s about people first and building relationships. He uses the game of football to teach life lessons and how to just be better people. It aligns so much with what I try to do with my team at Brainerd High School.

“The first time I ever sat down and met him, which was 11 years ago, we talked very briefly, but I just thought to myself, ‘this guy does everything the way I think it should be done.’ He’s hands down the best coach I’ve ever coached with or coached for.”

The young men that we work with are 18-, 19 years old and they’re just trying to find their way. They’re off on their own for the first time and this football program gets to be a compass for them and keep them on point and moving in the right direction or help them find their direction in life
Greg Medeck

Jordan said along with being a player-coach, Medeck also knows football. Throw in the other intangibles and Jordan knows why Medeck is sought after by larger programs. He’s also not surprised he’s still here.

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“I am and I’m not,” Jordan said when asked if he is surprised Medeck is still here. “I’m surprised because I know how great of a person and coach he is. I think he could definitely be somewhere else. He could be coaching at a different level, but something happened with him at CLC that changed his life. He realized this is his purpose. He’s meant to be at a junior college in central Minnesota hopefully changing young men’s lives. He tells us that. I don’t know what happened, I just know we’re really lucky to have him in this community.”

Working with student-athletes and being a positive role model or mentor is Medeck’s No. 1 priority. It’s not wins or losses. It’s not developing Division I prospects. It’s developing young adults. While it’s not a rehearsed response, Medeck gives the same answer to all who ask why he’s still here despite having options.

“It’s not fancy to say, but it’s just working with the kids,” Medeck said. “Just developing those relationships. I believe that I get to work with such a broad array of young men that come from lots of different backgrounds and lots of different interests and you get to put them together with this common theme of football. We get such a short, short window to work with them, but it’s such a pivotal point in their lives. The young men that we work with are 18-19 years old and they’re just trying to find their way. They’re off on their own for the first time and this football program gets to be a compass for them and keep them on point and moving in the right direction or help them find their direction in life. That part is really fun.”

Medeck doesn’t know or even care how many of his players have gone on to play at a four-year college or have continued their football careers. His quick guess is the number is approaching triple digits. But he doesn't care. He doesn’t keep track. While other junior college football programs predicate their success on wins and advancing players' careers, those statistics are far down on the list of priorities at CLC.

“That’s a byproduct of being part of our program, not a goal that we set,” Medeck said. “It’s just not the way I look at it.

“I’m more into caretaking the individual while they’re here and preparing them in case they get an opportunity. I’m not a marketer. I’m not much of a recruiter either. I’m just being honest with you. That’s not who I am. I get lucky sometimes just by surrounding myself with good people. My job in our football program is not simply just to move players to the next level. It happens. It’s a byproduct. It’s a wonderful opportunity when it comes up, but that’s not the purpose of what we do here.”

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Central Lakes College head football coach Greg Medeck explains a play Wednesday, August 10, 2022, during practice in Brainerd.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

In Medecks’ words, the purpose of the CLC football program is to develop and deliver an exceptional experience that changes people’s lives. Medeck’s job is to serve 60 players by creating an experience or program his student-athletes can take ownership of and build pride from.

“Never get hung up on results,” Medeck said. “Shoot, we lost more games than we won this last year. That’s not reflective of the program that we run or the things that we do. We provide an exceptional experience with great people. The scoreboard didn’t work out the way that we’re accustomed to previously, but it didn’t diminish our season at all.”

Last season, Medeck’s first after two years away from the sidelines, the Raiders finished 3-6. After starting 0-3, CLC was 3-3. The slow start was indicative of not having the players around the year prior because of the COVID-19 lost season.

Helping this year is Medeck’s approach to recruiting. As stated before, he does not like to recruit. Instead, he leans on the relationship he builds with area coaches. He also hopes by creating positive experiences for current and former players word of mouth does all the recruiting he needs.

“I honestly believe our best work when it comes to recruiting is done on a referral-based process,” Medeck said. “I want to continue to recruit the same schools. I want to have a huge footprint in central Minnesota. We almost virtually shut down our borders and we’re just recruiting almost Minnesota completely. I think that’s the way to do it. We want to attract young men to our program who feel connected to our campus, our community and our program altogether. This is not just a transitory place, but a place where they feel welcomed and can put down some roots. Even if they’re short-term.”

That understanding of what CLC’s program is attempting to do is Medeck’s biggest hurdle. He called the Raiders the hidden gem of football. He knows CLC is not the first choice for many young players. He’s at peace with that. He also understands families invest a lot of time and money into the sport and want returns on those investments whether that’s scholarships, which CLC can’t provide, or NILs or ‘name, image and likeness deals’ which Medeck gleefully doesn’t have to deal with either. But he believes if a student-athlete comes to play football at CLC he’ll be invested in and taken care of.

“One of the great benefits of my job is that we don’t have to get caught up in the measurables of success,” Medeck said. “We are not worried about being judged by the same standards as larger programs. What makes it special here is different than at other places where certain goals must be met or you are not considered successful.

“Are you a great teammate? Are you committed to your academics? Can you be a steward of our program here? Can you be involved in our community and take pride in that? And can you play a little bit? Can we get you on the field in a way that contributes to the game? Those are the things that I care about.”

And now we can stop asking why Greg Medeck is still at CLC.

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

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