As I try and track down all of the local athletes that have moved on to compete on the collegiate stage, one of the things that's been occurring to me is just how beleaguered some of these next-level coaches act by having to corresponding with me.
My reply to that would be, if hearing from me, at most, once a year is too much, every one of you college coaches can get in line behind my family. At least my uncle Don has an excuse. He's a Urologist. Those jokes write themselves. Prove me wrong!
Some of the most prominent athletes to ever light up the Friday Night Lights in the range of this newspaper are no longer doing that, though. For example, Mexico High School grad Danielle Baumgartner isn't listed as a right handed pitcher for the University of Missouri softball team any more, just like fellow former Bulldog Karsten Ekern has been removed from the Truman State University Football roster.
At Syracuse University their softball team no longer mentions Centralia's Baylee Douglas, just like North Iowa Area Community College can't and doesn't claim former Bulldog Jaylen Lee among its wrestling ranks. That's really too bad considering the Trojans website lists it as the reigning Junior College National Champions, but even the Hannibal-LaGrange Football team is unable to brag about Montgomery County offensive lineman Will Lorson and defensive back Kyle Kroll.
The William Woods University Men's Soccer team is also without Mexico product Cristian Vega, but after an early injury and a recovery that never quite took shape the way it was supposed to, his collegiate career was a candle in the wind that blew out before it ever it ever truly took shape. Christian McKeown, on the other hand, had a rather glorious career at the Richmond International Soccer Academy in England that, while impressive, simply ran its course because it was a prep program.
Glory days. They'll pass you by. Ask guys like Dedrick Harrington and Jason Arnaz. At one point those individuals were described with terms like, "runs like a deer". Now, they're people. Parents. Employees. Just like the rest of us. That doesn't mean these guys aren't still heroes. I said they were parents.
You know who else is a parent and played Div. 1 football for Larry Smith at the University of Missouri? It's the same guy who drives a school bus for Mexico Community Schools, teaches Physical Education at Mexico High School and is an assistant varsity track and field coach. That's right, sports fans, it's Bulldogs varsity football coach Steve Haag.
No, nobody has ever claimed coach Haag ran like a deer, nor did he ever spend any time with the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers or any other National Football League team. Sure, he's looking like a lean, mean fighting machine lately. But, for most of the time I've known him he's had the appearance of someone who played offensive lineman in college. Probably because he did. But, nobody ever really cared about that because Steve is a man of character. And he wins on the gridiron.
Really, if coach Haag had tried to make a name for himself based on where he started, being a Missouri man is nice, but he understands the Mizzou tradition well enough to know, just like people want to see the Tigers win right now, they want to witness the associated strength of character just as quickly. Fortunately for Steve that wasn't a problem. He is the real deal.
Just as fortunately for all those recent area college grads and former athletes coach Haag has also set an example that each one of them can follow should they choose. Follow your passions and treat people the way you want to be treated. I'm sure there's more to it, but that's the only part of Steve's formula I've been able to figure out so far.