WAYNE – Donald Anderson watched the Wayne Memorial football program lose game after game after game.
As a fan of high school football and a resident of Westland, Anderson, at times, just shook his head. As a former coach, Anderson thought about the possibility of doing something about it.
Few Class A programs have had less success than Wayne. The Zebras have made the playoffs twice and have yet to win a playoff game. Wayne’s last winning season came in 2006, when it finished 5-4. From 2010-2013, Wayne won one game. The Zebras were 2-7 last season.
Wayne is a member of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association and competes in the South division with such well-respected and successful programs like Canton, Livonia Churchill and Plymouth. Even its sister school, Westland John Glenn (the schools are part of the Wayne/Westland school district), has been a playoff team on a regular basis.
As a point of fact, four members of the KLAA South (Canton, John Glenn, Livonia Franklin and Plymouth) have reached an MHSAA Final.
Wayne’s road to rise is not an easy one.
But they have begun the climb.
“We’re getting better. We moved it well against Plymouth (in a 36-13 loss last week). We just don’t have a lot of firepower," Anderson said.
“We’ve got a good young squad. We have just seven seniors, and we don’t have a JV. We have just 12 sophomores and I didn’t want to take away from our freshmen, because they’re good, and we can build on that.”
Last April the Wayne/Westland school district had openings for a head varsity football coach, at both John Glenn and at Wayne. Anderson applied for both and was hired at Wayne. This season he became the school’s fourth head coach in as many years.
Anderson, a Detroit Cody graduate and former NFL player (he was the 32nd player taken in the 1985 NFL Draft after playing four years at Purdue University), has had success as an assistant or head coach at every school he’s been at since he starting coaching in 1989.
Anderson was the defensive coordinator at Cody before becoming the head coach in 1995. In 1999, he went to Detroit Henry Ford as an assistant under Mike Marshall before going to Detroit Northwestern in 2003 as an assistant under Michael Crayton. In 2009, Anderson became the head coach at Northwestern. The school closed after the 2009-10 school year, and Anderson decided, at that time, enough was enough.
He’s been a spectator ever since. Until this season.
“I was still involved,” he said. “I was in consultations with other schools. They wanted to pick my mind. I had a lot of opportunities to coach. It wasn’t the right time. I’ve lived in Westland since 2009. I live between Wayne and Glenn, and I’ve been watching Wayne for a while. I decided to give it a shot. The subject just drew me in. When the opportunity came, I said let’s try it.”
But coaches at Wayne don’t last long. Why would a person, 52 years old and a successful businessman, take a position there when he passed up other coaching opportunities?
A big part was wanting to help local athletes pursue their dreams at the college level. But there also was the challenge.
“I like a task," Anderson said. "It’s like when I left Henry Ford and went to Northwestern. People thought I was crazy. Low and behold, look who’s on my staff.”
Marshall is now Anderson’s assistant, as is Charles Spann, a former head coach at Detroit Chadsey and Detroit Pershing. It’s people like Marshall and Spann who waited for Anderson to get back into coaching to return to the sidelines themselves.
Both Marshall and Spann won Detroit Public School League titles as head coaches. Now they’re trying to help a friend experience the same.
There are definite reasons for optimism. Anderson sees a lot of potential in 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore Reggie Micheaux, a receiver and defensive end. "He can go up and get it, and he's a big target," the coach said.
Running backs Jarvis Martin and Malik Bryant, the latter also a defensive back, are among others who are impressing early.
Anderson said former players like himself are different. They have their pride. Their egos push them into circumstances others wouldn’t tread.
But for Anderson, it’s more than his ego he’s trying to satisfy. Ten years ago he was diagnosed with kidney failure. He went through dialysis until he received a kidney transplant five years after the diagnosis. After two years, his new kidney failed. Anderson has received kidney dialysis, three days a week, since 2012. With all of that comes a different perspective.
The winning, for now, has had to wait. Wayne is 0-3. Still, those 13 points represented the most they’ve scored against Plymouth since 2007.
It doesn’t get any easier with Canton (3-0) next, but the Zebras will continue to build.
“It’s about passing it on,” he said. “God has been good to me. It’s about helping others.”
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at email@example.com with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Malik Bryant breaks past pursuing Plymouth defenders during last week's game. (Middle) Jarvis Martin works against a Plymouth player. (Below) Kyle Brooks turns upfield. (Photos courtesy of Wayne Memorial athletic department/Kathy Hansen Photography.)
LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.
“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.
Guillean 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.”
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.
Gribler 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)