Prep Football: Misenheimer takes East Rowan job
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — There have been times when Danny Misenheimer has come home wearing East Rowan colors and gotten loudly booed by his own 5-year-old son.
“Yeah, I’m going to have to break Connor of being a West Rowan Falcon,” Misenheimer said with a laugh. “He’s grown up with West because of my dad (Darrell) and my cousins. He absolutely loves athletics. Now I’ve just got to get him to warm up to being a Mustang.”
Named as East’s new head coach, Misenheimer and his wife, Heather, who works for Bank of America, already have started on the daunting task of getting people — in and out of the household — to warm up to East football.
There have been a lot of chilly seasons.
Cumulatively, East is nearly 100 games under .500 since it started playing football in 1959. The most recent championship was a shared SPC title in 1997 with A.L. Brown and Concord when Misenheimer, 29, was still a sophomore at East.
Misenheimer will be East’s seventh head coach since 2002, so stability hasn’t been a program strength. This latest change in direction was made after East won a total of three games the last two seasons.
Misenheimer replaces Chad Tedder, a guy everyone respected as both a coach and human being.
“Coach Tedder? I love that man,” Misenheimer said. “He taught me so much, gave me opportunities. I’ve got all the praise in the world for him, and he’s a great friend.”
Misenheimer is straightforward, and it’s easy to believe him when he says it’s going to about the kids he’s coaching and not about him.
“The last thing I need is another story,” he said. “The boys can see the banners and the picture in the trophy case, and I’m proud of it, but I’ve had my glory years.”
Still, it would be remiss not to mention what a monumental high school athlete Misenheimer was. Here’s the short version, and it’s pretty remarkable stuff for a guy who wasn’t quite 6 feet tall.
State champion in the shot put. Heavyweight wrestling state champ. State wrestler of the year. Career record 173-13. Shrine Bowl football lineman. County defensive player of the year. All-American. Two-time county athlete of the year in 1999 and 2000.
“I was never 6-foot-5 and I was never the best athlete on the field,” Misenheimer said. “But the biggest thing is always going to be hard work. I tried to outwork everyone else who was out there.”
He succeeded in that. But he’ll have stories to tell his players about struggle as well as triumph.
No one wins them all.
Misenheimer went to Appalachian State on track and wrestling scholarships, and he met his future wife, a Bandys graduate, in Boone.
There were times he practiced indoor track and wrestling on the same day. He had success — Southern Conference regular season wrestling champ as a freshman — but then he got hurt.
“I tore my rotator cuff,” Misenheimer said. “And then I made poor decisions.”
He was back home not long after that — down but not out. He went to work and paid his way to finish his education at Catawba.
Then he accepted a job as plant manager for McKenzie Sports Products in Ogden, Utah, about as far from his glory days as he could go, but that athletics bug kept nibbling at him. He started helping out at nearby Roy High School — the Roy Royals.
“I fell in love with being around the kids and coaching athletes,” Misenheimer said.
The Misenheimers came back to North Carolina two years ago, and Danny got a call from East principal Kelly Sparger right away.
“He asked if I’d take a custodian position and assist with football,” Misenheimer said. “I didn’t worry about the money. I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
Misenheimer served as defensive coordinator during the 2010 season. When Tedder wanted to get back to his first love — defense — this season, Misenheimer shifted to offensive coordinator.
The ink hadn’t dried on East’s 1-9 season when the head job opened up.
“I applied, not thinking I’d ever get it,” Misenheimer said.
He’d never interviewed for a coaching job, but he got advice from friends who had. He knew what to expect, the sort of questions that would be asked.
“I went in there very well-prepared and had things in order,” Misenheimer said. “It was intense. The interview was two hours, 45 minutes,”
He still didn’t get his hopes up. He knew two other candidates had interviewed.
“I got a call at 1:45, and they asked me to come down to the office,” Misenheimer said. “They asked if I’d take the job, and I lit up like a Christmas tree. At 2:05, I was meeting with the boys.”
Misenheimer says his philosophy is simple.
Championship people. Championship players. Championship teams.
“You have to be a championship person first,” Misenheimer said. “Take care of that, and the rest follows.”
East had winning seasons in 2007 and 2009 under coach Brian Hinson, and Misenheimer says the strategic change he’ll make is to employ the veer option that Hinson used so well in 2009.
Carson-Newman has made a science of its split-back veer offense. Misenheimer watches hours of Carson-Newman film and he’s planning a trip to River Ridge, La., to study veer X’s and O’s with the coaches at Curtis Christian High. They’ve won 22 Louisiana state titles and once owned a 77-game winning streak.
“The veer suits us,” Misenheimer said. “We’ve got a sophomore quarterback (Noah Drye) who can really read the field and a sophomore running back (Calvin Edwards) who can be one of the best. We’ve got to get better at some things, but getting better is my goal.”
He’s young, but Misenheimer sounds like a guy who has his priorities in order.
“Only three percent of high school athletes play in college,” he said. “As far as the other 97 percent, a football coach has a great opportunity to teach them how to live life. There’s some molding that needs to happen. We want to mold our boys into good men that will do right.”
Maybe it’s a new day for the Mustangs. Maybe they’ve found a guy they can warm up to for a long time.
“I love East and this is my dream job,” Misenheimer said. “I’ll never have any desire to go elsewhere. I want to be here to coach my son.”