Mettlach excited to get to work with Huskies
HOUGHTON — When the search began for the 17th head coach in Michigan Tech Huskies football history, it made sense for the Huskies to stay close to home with their decision. On Nov. 29, the university announced that associate coach Dan Mettlach would take the reins from Steve Olson.
Mettlach bleeds Black and Gold, as they say. As a quarterback, he helped guide the Huskies through the toughest stretch in program history when the university cut, and later reinstated, the program. He helped led the Huskies to their first GLIAC Championship, and the first trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history.
He ranks fifth in total offense with a combined total of 6,348 yards and 66 touchdowns. He is seventh in passing yards with 5,261 yards on 358 attempts, and he threw 50 touchdown passes.
He has been back with the Huskies in a coaching role since 2017. Despite all of that, by mid-December, the fact that he was moving up from associate head coach to head coach.
“We’re getting there,” he said. “It’s been pretty crazy the last two weeks, with everything that happened. Then two pretty good size visits that we had the last two weeks, having 30-plus kids on campus the last two weekends. So, there hasn’t been a whole lot of time to step back and realize everything at that point.”
Fortunately, with the university on holiday break, he feels like things should start to settle.
“Over the break, and when we get back, and get the guys back on campus, obviously, that’ll all start to get into a routine with that and move forward from that standpoint,” he said. “Looking forward to it. The guys on the staff are excited, the locker room’s excited.”
That doesn’t mean his work is done, by any means.
“We have to get a couple new positions hired,” he said, “but it’s all part of the deal. Looking forward to that as well.”
While he was not expecting that change at the top was going to happen, Mettlach was floored by how fast everything came together.
“Once everything happened, it happened pretty fast,” he said. “(I) always wanted to be a head coach, but when we started having the conversations, that was a no-brainer that I wanted to get to stay at the place that I played at, and raising the family here and everything. So, very grateful for the opportunity.”
Mettlach is quick to mention that he would not be getting the opportunity he has at Michigan Tech if not for Olson bringing him into the fold as a coach.
“Like I’ve said many times, grateful for Coach Olson bringing me back here in the first place to get on staff,” said Mettlach. “So, it all worked out, and my family is excited. Just very lucky to be sitting in this chair now, after having been in that locker room and coaching here. It’s a pretty cool deal.”
Looking at his staff, Mettlach plans on keeping everyone who is already in the Copper Country on board, and he hopes to quickly fill two positions that currently sit open.
“We’ve got a very good staff here,” he said. “There are two spots that we have to fill. Otherwise, Coach (Bryan) Thomas is staying. Not to go down the whole list, but Coach (Phil) Milbrath will be here, Coach (Jack) Rustman, some of those other guys. So, we’re losing two of them that we need to replace.
“That was a big part of it, I think.”
Mettlach believes that his staff can find what he calls the “right kids” for the team and the school, but that starts with having evaluators amongst his coaches who believe in the message of the school and the area.
“Living up here, as long as you are getting guys that understand what Michigan Tech is, what our community’s about, the type of kids we coach, that is as important as anything else,” he said. “It’s obviously a different place here with what we compete against in our league. We are very unique in every sense of the way compared to everybody else that we play. So, having guys on staff that are not only good football coaches, but understand our culture, (are) great people off the field, I think that’s a huge deal for us.”
Getting to remain in the Copper Country made taking the head coaching position easy for Mettlach.
“It’s incredible,” he said “I couldn’t be any more grateful. I love this place, love this program. The community, since my wife and I’ve moved back here with our two young daughters, that that has been awesome as well. Everything that makes Michigan Tech what it is, from the social aspect to the academics, to the football program, and the athletic department as a whole, it’s why I fell in love with this place.”
Having seen how the community treats the football program, first as a player, and later as a member of the coaching staff, Mettlach cannot be more excited to get to work as a head coach.
“Tech has grown in enrollment and where we’re trying to get to in the next couple of years, but it is very much the relationship that we have from the athletic building down to campus, have advisors, professors, Academic Services, the list goes on and on, has always been a special connection when it comes to that the help going both ways.
“The community support at our games is great. Our support is different. It’s more tight knit. Our kids actually get to know the people that come to the game. What our guys feel, in terms of support, is incredible.”
Mettlach hopes that he can bring that passion from the community to his team. Being a very competitive person, he has had to learn to dial some of that excitement back, but he hopes the players can follow his lead when it comes to getting ready to play.
“I am a very competitive person, I think,” he said. “If you were to go back 10 years ago, and Will Ark will tell you, maybe even three years ago, I was a little bit more animated and loud, if you will, then I feel like in the past couple years. You get into different positions, maybe it’s growing up, whatever it may be. Maybe it’s getting to know the guys in our locker room better, but I’m very passionate about the game. I’m competitive.
“I want guys to think that football is important. I understand where we go to school, and the academics are always going to come first. But if academics are 1, football needs to be 1A. We play in way too competitive of a league, at the highest level of Division II football. The guys that we recruit, and are trying to develop in our locker room, need to have that same passion for the game, in my opinion, for us to get to where we want to be.”