COUNCIL BLUFFS — Count Tom Osborne among those impressed by Iowa Western’s rapid rise from a start-up football program to a junior college national champion.
Prior to becoming Nebraska’s athletic director, the legendary Husker coach acted as a consultant to Iowa Western President Dan Kinney when the school decided to add football to its athletic department in 2008.
Five years later, the now-retired Osborne returned to the Council Bluffs campus as the guest speaker at Monday’s celebration of Iowa Western’s 2012 NJCAA championship. The Reivers, who first played football in the fall of 2009, won the national title in December in only their fourth season.
“When Dan came to me about five years ago and said he wanted to start a football program, I said, ‘Well, that’s nice,’” Osborne told the crowd at Kanesville Arena. “I had no idea at the time that things would come along as well as they have.”
Iowa Western ran the table in 2012, winning its 12 games by an average of 50 points.
Reiver coach Scott Strohmeier, his staff and players received their championship rings at Monday’s celebration. The event came a little more than four months after their 27-7 win over No. 2 Butler (Kan.) in the NJCAA title game at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Dec. 2.
Strohmeier called Monday a “special, special evening.” His team is already halfway through its spring season. He said its preparation for 2013 began not long after the title game victory.
In the Kanesville gymnasium, the Reivers took a moment to reflect on their achievement.
“You jump right back right into the next season of winter conditioning and spring ball, and I don’t know if it’s necessarily really sunk in to me,” Strohmeier said. “Our guys are extremely excited, and they know what they’ve accomplished. That’s probably the biggest thing to me.”
Although many of the key players from the championship team have already moved on to four-year colleges, the Reiver coach said they’ve left a lasting impression on IWCC football.
“I think there’s a confidence level within the program. I really do believe that,” he said. “You never want to compare this team to the last team. Every team is different. The goal in mind is the same, but it’s a different team. Last year’s team was special.”
The remaining players from that squad listened to Osborne speak Monday on the importance of character and balance in lives of athletes. While also sharing tales of Peyton Manning, Brook Berringer and Abraham Lincoln, the coach who guided Nebraska to three national titles in his final four seasons also cautioned Strohmeier on the perils of success as a football coach.
“I told Scott he’s probably now painted himself into a corner,” Osborne said. “Once you win them all, the only good year is to win them all the next year. Expectations get pretty high.
“Once you’ve had some success, the question might be: How do you sustain it? It’s very difficult to get to the level you’ve gotten. And it’s almost impossible to do it in four years.”
The Reivers will open their fifth season Aug. 24 in Texas against Trinity Valley. Iowa Western wraps up its spring drills with a scrimmage at Lewis Central High School at 2:30 p.m. on April 27.