Bear Lake Coach Invited to NFL Forum

January 25, 2019

By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half

BEAR LAKE — Samantha Mullet lives and breathes football.

Mullet figures to be right in her element then when she takes part in the National Football League’s “Women’s Careers in Football Forum” over Feb. 26-27 in Indianapolis.

The Bear Lake assistant football coach is among a select group of 40 invitees to the event, which is in its third year and includes panel discussions, presentations and breakout sessions in an effort to connect female candidates for positions as coaches, trainers, officials, scouts and front office personnel. The forum was developed as part of the NFL’s interest in expanding diversity and providing opportunities for women in football.

“It’s a really big honor,” said Mullet, who has been the Lakers’ offensive coordinator the last two years. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to go and learn more about football — all aspects of the game at different levels and be able to bring that back to Bear Lake.”

Bear Lake athletic director Karen Leinaar was contacted by the NFL in November about having Mullet apply to attend the forum. The league then selected the 40 invitees from a collection of nationwide applicants. Leinaar believes the publicity Mullet received from video features done by Fox Sports Detroit and local CBS affiliate WWTV tipped the NFL to extend the offer for Mullet to apply.

“Between those two things, that caught the eye of someone at the NFL front office,” said Leinaar. “I had never heard of this forum. They contacted me and asked if I would give them Sam’s information, and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, yes.’ Here’s a young lady who loves the game and has literally sunk her soul into the game. It’s amazing, and this is a great opportunity for her.”

Mullet is a 2013 graduate of Bear Lake, where she played basketball, golf and ran cross country. But the school didn’t get its own football program until an 8-player squad was established in 2017 — just as Mullet was returning home after earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Concordia University-Ann Arbor.

She approached her high school science teacher, John Prokes, who had been named the head coach of the program and asked him if she could help in any capacity. Prokes surprised Mullet by inviting her to help design the new team’s offense. She followed through with so much proficiency that Prokes extended an offer for her to join his coaching staff.

“I said, ‘Here’s an offense I’m thinking of running; can you outline this and tweak it? Let’s go over it and help me organize this offense,’” Prokes recalled. “It started from there. Next thing you know, she took over. She started incorporating her ideas and just running with it. It was a no-brainer. I told her, ‘You’re good at this. You’re hard-working on it. You take it to that 11th level. You run our offense.’”

Mullet has proven to have a great football mind in the two years she’s been with the program, added Prokes.

“I’ve encountered a lot of people, and I’m not just saying this because she’s my assistant coach and working with me, but she’s one of the most knowledgeable people in football that I know,” he said. “When I found out she was selected for this, and she had the opportunity to share experiences and network with other people in the field, I was extremely excited and pumped for her.”

Despite not playing on the gridiron, football has always been a part of Mullet’s life. Her family has had season tickets to Michigan State games for the past 20 years, and she picked up a great deal of knowledge about football along the way.

“We always went to football games as a family,” she said. “Football is something I’ve loved forever, for as long as I can remember. I’m really grateful to be able to turn a passion into a career. A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do something they love for work. I’m really grateful that football has become for me something I can do and something I can share with other people because the game means a lot to me.”

Mullet’s passion for football has only deepened through coaching, as has her understanding of the game.

“I spend all my time now watching film and researching different things,” she said. “My knowledge has definitely increased, even more than I thought it could. I just love the game in so many more ways, seeing all the different levels that you don’t see being in the stands.”

Besides coaching football, Mullet also serves as Leinaar’s assistant in the athletic department and is the school’s yearbook advisor. Her dream job, however, would be to become an offensive coordinator in the NFL.

“I think that would be the ultimate thing,” she said. “Just to gain that perspective from that sideline and all the things that happen in a week there. To be completely immersed in football all the time and not have to have a different part-time job, to be completely absorbed in football would be amazing.”

Leinaar thinks the connections Mullet could make at the upcoming forum might open new doors in the world of football, perhaps even allowing Mullet to someday get a position at the highest level of the sport.

“I’m hoping that she gets an opportunity to keep going in football,” said Leinaar. “I think the sky is the limit for her. She would truly like to see what’s there at the next level and how they do some of the things they do. I think if somebody gave her an opportunity to work in one of their front offices, she’d be there in a heartbeat.”

Chris Dobrowolski has covered northern Lower Peninsula sports since 1999 at the Ogemaw County Herald, Alpena News, Traverse City Record-Eagle and currently as sports editor at the Antrim Kalkaska Review since 2016. He can be reached at sports@antrimreview.net with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

VIDEO: Fox Sports Detroit featured the Bear Lake 8-player football program during its first season in 2017. The above photo is taken from that video.

Lawrence's Schuman Sets Example for Well-Rounded Success

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

December 14, 2022

LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.

Southwest Corridor“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.

“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”

Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.

“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.

Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.

As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.

He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.

“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.

John GuilleanGuillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.

“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.

Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.

At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.

“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”

Great anticipation

Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.

In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.

Derek GriblerGribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.

“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”

Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.

“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”

In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.

“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.

“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”

Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.

“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”

Big shoes to fill

As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.

Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.

Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.

Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.

“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.

As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”

His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.

He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.

“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”

Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.

“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.

“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at pamkzoo@aol.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)