"As a UMC grad and former resident, I do not know many alumni with as much Golden Eagle pride as I have."
Those are the words of former Minnesota, Crookston football player, Kyle Myers, who lived in Crookston for just a handful of years.
The 25-year-old who grew up in Palmyra, N.J., was recently named outside linebackers coach at University of North Dakota (UND), which is joining the Big Sky Conference in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.
Myers came to the area to play football at Northland Community Technical College (NCTC) in Thief River Falls. After a year there, he transferred to UMC where he played for three seasons and was a two-year starter at linebacker, becoming a team captain his senior year. He also played the 2009 season with the Crookston Reds amateur baseball team.
But that's not his only ties to the community, though.
His wife, Olivia (Weber) Myers is a Crookston native and a graduate of CHS in 2006. They have a son named Jordan and currently reside in East Grand Forks.
Myers' college coaching career began with the Golden Eagles after he graduated from UMC in 2010. He spent half of 2010 with Minnesota, Crookston as an assistant coach under Head Coach Shannon Stassen. In May of that year he joined UND as a volunteer assistant. Last season he spent as the defensive coordinator with NCTC.
Ironically, during Myers' time as a coach at UMC he helped recruit Kevin Myers, who is also from New Jersey. But there is no relation.
"The position at Northland opened up and it was a good move for me," Myers told the Times. "I became one of the youngest coordinators in the country and it put me ahead of my career plan. That allowed me to grow as a coach. I was also given the responsiblity to run special teams and was also named recruiting coordinator after the season. I was able to kind of spread my wings and it worked out well for everyone. We went to the state championship for the first time in decades. We broke a number of school records. I signed 36 players for Northland which his huge number."
Like everyone, Myers has his obstacles and challenges that he must overcome. Unlike most people, he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
"I was diagnosed with MS as a sophomore in high school and it changed my vision with seeing the baseball," Myers explained. "I was playing first base and I took a shot in the chest on a throw from third. I never saw the baseball the same way again. My depth perception is a little bit off. From my junior year of high school to my year with the Crookston Reds I didn't see the baseball field. My season with the Reds was my one opportunity to do well. I got a little redemption."
Page 2 of 3 - It was in game two of the season-opening doublheader with the Bemidji Blue Ox that Myers got his redemption.
He recorded the lone hit in the game for the Reds with a leadoff double in the seventh and scored the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly for a sweep.
Myers viewed that moment as a victory over the disease that may one day cripple him.
"Thirty years from now there's a chance I might not be able to walk anymore," Myers said. "I've been told that since I was diagnosed and as I get older I realize it's real. But I take care of myself and I'm not going anywhere. I'm doing much better than 90 percent of people with MS. Being diagnosed as a 15-year-old black kid, my case was so rare. I've overcome a lot of it and I've learned to deal with it enough."
Even though the disease is a challenge for Myers, in typical coaching fashion, he sees the positive side.
"It rubs off on my style as a coach," he said. "I tell my players 'the next play is never promised.' MS put things in perspective for me. I never tell my players I have that issue. It usually comes up later in the season. I think I'm a more well-rounded coach because of it. I can relate to other player's experiences."
During his three-year playing career with Golden Eagle football, Myers flourished at linebacker in his junior and senior seasons after being a runningback his sophomore year.
In his junior season, Myers played in eight games, starting seven of them. He recorded 30 tackles and had one sack. In his senior season, he tied for fifth on the team with 46 tackles, playing in ten games.
"There was an opportunity on the defensive side," Myers said. "I thought I would be able to help the team in more of a leadership role over there and that is something that was important to me. Being a leader was something I naturally stepped into. My junior season I was able to start the first game and I did pretty well. Out of high school I was not heavily recruited as a defensive player because of my height. Coach Stassen was OK with me moving to the D-side and he knew it was something I was passionate about. That helped me as a player and as a coach."
Myers said he hopes his coaching career takes him back to UMC at some point.
"I'm a Crookston guy," said Myers. "I hope to have a chance to come back to Crookston and help build that program. I did a lot of growing and maturing there as a student. I hope to spend some time there at some point. I'm not big on levels, like Division I, II or III. I like the FCS level but I have no problem with stepping down."
Page 3 of 3 - Born to coach
"My father always coached growing up and the coaching thing has always been a part of my family," Myers said. "When I was at UMC, a friend of the family, Darrell Hazell (currently the head coach at Kent State), who was an assistant coach at Ohio State, was someone I reached out to all the time. When I was thinking about getting into coaching he was the first person I talked to."
Just as Coach Hazell has been a mentor to Myers, Myers wants to be a mentor for his players.
"I love the impact you can have on kids' lives," he said. "At 17, they are really turning into men. Football is the best game on earth in my opinion. No other sport teaches more about life. Unfortunately many of the players I recruit don't have a father at all. Being a mentor to those players reaffirms for me I'm in the right business. I saw a lot of examples of that at Northland and I saw a lot of growth as men."
"I have every expectation to be a head coach at a high level," said Myers.
Jumping to an assistant coaching position with a Division I program like UND puts Myers in a good position to find his dream someday.
"Kyle was a volunteer assistant for us a couple of seasons ago and we were keeping an eye on him last season over at Northland," UND Head Coach Chris Mussman said. "He did a nice job over there with recruiting and coaching and when we had a position come open, he was one of the first guys that came to mind. We're glad to have him back in a bigger role."