Bluejays welcome new football coach

The MHS athletic staff didn’t wait long before making a decision on the varsity football head coach replacement for Tom Tourtillott.
Wausau West defensive coordinator Nick Sturm was confirmed as a hire in Monday night’s MAPS school board meeting.
“He was excellent,” MHS activities director Rick Bonnell said. “You could tell he’s been preparing for this for 7-8 years. He had everything in order.
“We really liked his positive approach. His long-range goal was to be a head coach and he kept taking steps to achieve that goal. You can’t expect to wake up one day and be given a head coaching job. You could tell he is on a mission.
“The way he came across, I’m sure he will really talk to the kids. He keeps it positive, but he gets his point across.
“You never know, because you only meet with these candidates for a few hours, but (principal) Shannon (Murray), (dean of students) Kurt (Soderberg) and I were very happy. He has already been in the weight room meeting with the kids and going at it 110%.”
Sturm concurred that he is ready for the challenge.
“I’m excited,” he said. “When I was in college I thought one day I would like to be a head coach. Merrill’s job opened up and everything fell into place at the right time.”
Not that MHS football fans should expect wholesale changes.
“Tom left the program in good position,” Sturm said. “Things are in place and ready to go. We want to continue with that Bluejay tradition. We have to build relationships. It will be a learning process for all of us. We’ve got to get the staff going, too. It’s a good situation but it’s going to take a little time and we don’t have a lot of time. I saw good, respectful kids and I’m excited to work with them.
“Things might be a little different, but many concepts are the same. Tom really focused on character development and we will continue with that. If you have young men with character, you’re going to get the most out of them. If they are doing things the right way we’re going to find success. Two things we can control are effort and attitude. You want great effort and attitude all of the time. If you have them you can do some powerful things.”
Football is possibly the game that requires the greatest dedication to team, and Sturm’s primary goal addresses that.
“In general we want to be building some unity, coming together as a team,” Sturm said. “I think building a level of consistency and comfort between the staff and players. We want to focus on that, as well as teamwork and camaraderie.”
Sturm’s knowledge of the game is hard-earned. After noting that Sturm graduated from Rhinelander High School in the mid-90’s, Bonnell described him as a mover and shaker from the U.P., due to his on-field experience for Michigan Tech University. As a linebacker, Sturm was the Defensive Player of the Year from 1997-99, the team MVP in ’99, and a captain in ’98-’99.
“He had a pretty successful college career,” Bonnell noted. “He stayed on as a graduate assistant in 2000-2001.”
He coached at Three Lakes from 2002-03, then at Chilton from 2003-05, before heading to West from 2006-2011.
Merrill plays in the Valley in all sports except for football, where it competes in the GNC football conference.
“I will be competing against my alma mater,” Sturm said. “That will be fun.
“There are some very good, competitive teams in that conference, schools with a long tradition. I know a number of the coaches. They are very good coaches and they do a good job of preparing their kids.”
Bonnell added, “There are definitely some strong teams in that conference with Rhinelander, Antigo, Lakeland, Medford and Ashland. Mosinee was undefeated last year.”
One couldn’t blame Sturm if his head is swirling in a thousand different directions. He interviewed for the job last week, took over the team for the three days of coaching contact starting this Tuesday, then heads out immediately after practice on Thursday for Ethiopia, where he and his wife, Erica, will bring home an adopted child.
“Just say I’m trying to keep up,” Sturm said. “We’re going to do the best we can.”

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