NAIA Ramblings of Jason Dannelly from 9/20/2007: Peru State’s Finest Impact on VSN

I feel like I owe it to Peru State to come on by and see the place where these two coaches reached one of the highest points in their coaching careers since they meant so much to me as a player.

It’s weird how year’s later you can still feel a coach’s impact and how they changed your life whether they were around you for five years or five minutes. Brown and Korby did just that to me, in separate instances. I respected them both immensely and anyone who played defense at Dana during that time understands what I am talking about. Probably the same can be said for those players who played under them at Peru State.

Get the flashback music ready.
It was the start of my sophomore year of college football and I was on offense at Dana College. We had just undergone a change of offense in fall camp and weren’t using a fullback much which led to limited and split playing time on offense. After the second game of that season our middle linebacker hurt his back and it was thought that he would not play again for the rest of the season.

A good friend of mine, Jody Phillips, was on the coaching staff after his playing career had ended due to injury. He knew I was unhappy because I was not playing and asked if I would consider moving positions to play defense. I said “sure” because I wanted to play but he warned me … “I don’t know what Coach Brown will think. He’s kinda got his guys but you never know.”

I later found out that in that Sunday evening’s meeting Brown was adamant against me making the move to defense. Korby and Jody told him to “give him a week.”

So on Monday I was told I was moving to defense. I grabbed my white jersey and went about my business as a linebacker. Oh yeah, this was 20 minutes before practice started that I found out.

I can still remember Korby and Jody writing on little sticky notes in the coach’s office the different types of coverage and blitzes that I had to know. My head was spinning to say the least.

After a week at practice we had to face off against eventual NAIA postseason participant Hastings College. Naturally I was sitting about 2/3 on the depth chart at middle and strongside backer because I knew nothing … absolutely nothing.
In one week of practice I think all I had retained by game time was “tackle the guy with the ball.”

Well, Hastings was good … VERY good. Marc Boerighter was a wide receiver for them (eventual NFL player) and Josh Miller was the quarterback (All-American QB). They put up over 700 total yards of offense on us. Most of that in the first and second quarter.

I can’t even remember the score, but I remember Jody coming over to me with his headset on in the second quarter and saying “Brown wants to see what you can do. Don’t worry you can’t do much worse than what has happened so far.”

In I went. I played the rest of the game. Had a lot of fun and pretty much just ran around like an idiot which given our play that day was about par for the course.

The next day Brown was walking into the coach’s office as I was leaving the trainers room for treatment. Brown said “Hey Chipper, come here.”

Brown had this way of communicating that I just loved. It was like being called over by your grandfather. You knew when he was talking it was typically something important or that he meant business. He grabbed my elbow with his right hand and looked me in the eye through his thick glasses…

“Chipper, I owe you an apology. I doubted you and didn’t think you could be one of my guys… . You’re my type of guy.”
Then it was a quick pat on the back and he walked up the stairs. My heart felt about 10 times bigger and I knew that Brown was a special coach because of his honesty to me. I never had a coach, EVER come up to me and say he was sorry for a decision he made. But the sincerity in his voice and the look in his eyes made me believe he was something special.

The same could be said for his other Peru State counterpart Rondel Korbelik. Korby was the fiery coach that I loved. He said the right things when they needed to be said and had the respect of everyone on defense. Later my sophomore year I had a moment that made me realize that Korby “got it” as a coach and as a person. Of course it also involved Coach Brown.

We were playing our rival Midland Lutheran in Fremont. We were down something like 35-3 at halftime. Our defensive locker room was chatty and everyone was getting on one another. Coach Brown gave the most memorable halftime speech I have ever received to this day.
Brown shuffled in looking at the defensive play card.

He’d glance at it … then look up … he’d glance down again and back up. He did this for a minute until you could hear nothing in the locker room. He looked at Korby, Jody, and Coach Williams … then he looked at us and shook his head.

“Are we the worst damn defense in the nation?”
Pause … loooooooong pause.  Complete silence.

 

“I’m serious guys. I’ll even ask it again … are WE the worse damn defense in the nation? I’ve been reading the newspapers for two weeks. No one gives up 700 yards in a game. No one. Not all year. And you know what? We’re gonna do it twice in the same season?!?!
Pause … loooooooonger pause.

 

“So I’ll ask a third time … are WE the worse damn defense in the nation. Hell, don’t answer it fellas, get out there and do something about it. I’m through talking and listening to people talk about it, you need to start doing.”
After stunned silence we made our way back to the field. First drive of the second quarter Midland scored again and our defense came off the field. There was a lot of bickering and a lot of negativity.

 

I hated that. The finger pointing started and that’s when I let out a profanity laced tirade that would make the cast of “The Departed” blush.
At one point, I may or may not have told a senior what he could do with his football helmet and where it should be place upon his removal from the game.

 

After going “Alex Baldwin” on them, Korby grabbed my facemask … . stared in my eyes … and didn’t say a word. It seemed like we stared at one another for 30 minutes but it was more like 5 seconds. Korby let out a sly crooked smile and said the most meaningful words to me every as a player.
With a nod of his head he whispered. “Good”

 

We came back but lost in the end. I played the rest of the game and started the rest of the season. The week after Midland I ran into Korby on my way out of a Monday night team meeting. I remember the scene so vividly it’s almost like it was in a movie I have seen thirty times.
We were in between the campus center and the main campus building at Dana. Korby was walking with a group of coaches in front of me and glanced back to see I was walking out by myself. He slowed up to talk to me as the other coaches advanced on. He reached out and put his fist on my shoulder to talk to me.

“Chipper, all I have to say is keep doing what you are doing. I don’t care about how you play football. You’ve got character and you’ve got class. That’ll take you farther than knowing how to play cover two or plug a gap.”

That’s just how Korby was.  He’d take the time to say things like that to you and always had time for you as a person or player.
Going into my junior year we found out that Coach Brown’s cancer had gotten worse and that he wasn’t going to be able to coach that fall. So Korby moved into the roll of defensive coordinator. It’s hard to remember all of the talks Korby would have with us but I always felt like he was saying the right things. We just weren’t very good at playing football and doing what we were told to do.  But we got the message that he was trying to send.

The most memorable was his talk to the entire team about Peru State College football and when they won the national title. The subject was all about how they “got it” as a team. They knew what it was going to take to get there and that team just “got it”. As a team at Dana we had players that “got it” too, but not everyone “get’s it” and those people needed to either “get it” or “get out”. The intensity in which he told the story of the guys coming together inspired a lot of us; at least the ones that “got it”.

I’m sure everyone reading this has had this experience. That coach or person that changed their lives or at least kept them pointing in the right direction. So I almost feel this obligation after all of these years to go to Peru State and see a game, just for the sake of history. For my own history and for two of the guys who meant so much to me as coaches.

I’ll end this “Rambling” paying homage to Coach Brown. The article is over and I’ve done everything I can do this week to prepare for the job I am about to do. Everyone have a great week …

“The hay’s in the barn fellas … nothing left to do now but stack asses.”

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