P.J. Fleck has never had a more eventful 24 hours. On the same day he accepted the head coaching position at Western Michigan, Fleck’s wife, Tracie, went in to labor. Instead of flying to Kalamazoo, he was in a Tampa-area hospital watching his daughter’s birth.
All went well and a day later Fleck was formally introduced as Western Michigan’s newest head coach.
“I know I didn’t go to school here, but I feel like I’ve come home,” said Fleck. “I’m a Midwest man with Midwest values and we’re going to recruit Midwest student-athletes.”
Fleck will return to Tampa for the next week and a half to finish the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before turning his full-time attention to Western Michigan.
“I’d love to get the two coordinators hired very quickly and from there get their input on some things, interview some candidates and get this wrapped up very quickly,” said Fleck.
He wouldn’t have gotten the job if he couldn’t recruit, and Fleck’s first task will be to recruit the players on his own roster.
“The first thing I have to do is recruit our players,” he said. “It’s going to take them a while to trust me. What we have right here is what we have. We have a talent, we have to convince them they can accomplish anything.”
The most common question related to this hire, which surely hasn’t been asked for the last time, is if Fleck is too young, too inexperience to succeed in this role. Fleck doesn’t think so, noting that he’d been trained by 13 head coaches at all levels, namely Greg Schiano, Jim Tressel, Jerry Kill and Mike Nolan.
“Age never really mattered to me,” said Fleck. “It was about when I was ready. I knew it within myself, I knew I could lead men because I’ve been trained by the best. Then men I’ve surrounded myself with, I would want my son to play for and I hope people say the same thing about Coach Fleck and Western Michigan.”
Fleck displayed enough energy to run a power plant, rendering the podium microphones redundant as his voice boomed across the room while detailing his plan for the Western Michigan football program.
“My energy is limitless,” Fleck said. “Don’t believe me? Just challenge me. I’m proud of my energy.”
Fleck is also proud of many other things, including but not limited to, his upbringing, the Mid-American Conference, his underdog status, his faith and his work ethic.
“I’ve always loved the underdog role,” Fleck explained. “We’re going to play the underdog card at Western Michigan. We’re going to take that with us.”
Fleck may not have been a head coach before, but he’ll have Western Michigan believing they can win when they walk out of the tunnel at Michigan State on August 31.