Author Bryan Stevenson observed that, “You can't understand most of the important things from a distance...You have to get close.” SGG's "Football in Wisconsin" special series gets close to football through conversations with coaches, competitors, and others connected with the game in the Badger state. We aim to deepen our understandings of coaching -- and of football's impact on and off the field.
Zander Neuville was a student and football player at Waupaca High School and the University of Wisconsin. After injuries ended his promising career as a tight end, Zander was ready to transition to new horizons. He’s currently in medical school at Northwestern University. Zander joined the SGG podcast and offered rich perspective on the coaches and doctors who influenced him along his journey. We discussed:
1. The role of sports in his childhood.
2. Being surprised to be recruited by colleges to play football.
3. His relationship with Waupaca Coach John Koronkiewicz: He was a really helpful mentor to me.
4. How Coach Koronkiewicz helped connect him with Wisconsin coaches, ultimately contributing to his opportunity to join the team.
5. Coach Koronkiewicz’s knack for connecting with his players and treating everyone equal opportunity: “He built an environment that everyone wanted to be a part of…Everyone had the highest respect for him.”
6. Coach Mickey Turner’s effectiveness and modeling as tight end coach.
7. Strength and Conditioning Coach Ross Kolodzieg’s impact. “He was someone I really connected with…He had gone through everything that we were currently going through…There was a natural trust with him…I leaned on him a lot.”
8. How the everyday schedule changes for players during injury times.
9. The close relationship that strength coaches develop with players.
10. The two phases of injury: initial shock and long-term effects.
11. “What sticks with me about injuries is how long they can stay with you mentally.”
12. Career ending injuries as “divorce.”
13. “It can get taken away really quickly.”
14. Injury isolation.
15. How his own injuries related to his pursuit of medical school.
16. The injuries were bad for my football career, but I feel like it’s been a positive for my medical school work.”
17. His relationship with Dr. Baer, the surgeon who operated on him numerous times.
18. The friendships and exposure to different people that he gained from playing at Wisconsin. “I have a greater appreciation for what everyone is going through and where they came from…Everyone has their own story. And football opened me up to that.”
19. Football time management lessons: it made the transition to medical school easy.