Gary Andersen isn't an average, everyday college football coach.
But, everyone in Logan already knew that
Andersen is selfless, compassionate and emphasizes the importance of classroom work for student-athletes. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel made a trip to Logan to delve into Andersen's Utah State roots. Potrykus discovered these unique coaching attributes that Aggie fans have known for years.
Senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton readily admits Andersen was a main factor that brought him to Logan. Keeton told the Journal Sentinel Andersen made promises and always kept them. His honesty and selflessness rubbed off on the Aggies star quarterback.
"The way I see it, that is how I want to live my life because it is pointless to be a selfish person," Keeton said. "That is how he coaches. That is the way his players are. That is how he built a family around a team and it works for him and it produces wins."
Other former Utah State players acknowledged that Andersen's "players first" attitude helped build relationships during the four seasons he coached the Aggies. His attitude and passion as a coach made him stand out to Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes.
"He had the energy, the passion and the plan and not to mention an unbelievable reputation among high school coaches across the state," Barnes told Potrykus. "His reputation was one of a coach that student-athletes loved to play for, a guy they could trust, a guy who cared for you."
Another quality that sets Andersen above the pack is his emphasis on student-athletes. Barnes admitted when Andersen first joined the Utah State program, more than 30 football players were "possible academic casualties." The new coach turned that around in a hurry.
“That was a real sign of a cultural shift,” Barnes told the Journal Sentinel. “At the end of the former coach’s era it had slipped And you’re not going to win with kids like that.”
This culture is now a principle Andersen is implementing at Wisconsin. At the team's opening day of preseason camp, Andersen made sure his academic expectations for the players were clearly stated.
“The ability to grind is important in academics," Andersen said to his players. "Grinding in the classroom is something you have to do here if you’re going to succeed. I think it does carry over to the football field and does carry over to the social life. I think in turn, it helps you win games.”
Although Andersen completely turned the Utah State football program around and then left to coach Wisconsin, his legacy continues to impact his former program in positive ways.
Among the changes attributed to Andersen are new football facilities. Andersen created success on the field and the community wanted to be a part of it.
The brand new $6.4 million strength and conditioning center opened earlier this summer and was the latest update, paid for entirely through private donations. Throughout Andersen's tenure, he steadily upgraded the facilities.
A $76.8 million Student-Athlete Performance Center, which is to be completed prior to the 2014 season, also is in the works due to the success Andersen initiated.
Although Wisconsin will now reap the benefits of Andersen's influence on its football team, Andersen left Utah State in a really good place.
Whitney O'Bannon is a new media sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow on Twitter at @whitney_oban.
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