By Sarah Slocum
Family comes first – it’s a mantra that every player who as ever been coached by Northern Michigan University’s football coach Bernie Anderson is familiar with.
“Family is always the most important thing, according to Coach Anderson,” said sophomore offensive lineman Zach Barr. “I believe that as well.”
This weekend the Wildcats’ contest against Findlay at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Superior Dome will be one of the highlighted activities of NMU’s Family Weekend. Hundreds of parents and family members are expected to participate in Family Weekend activities. The event’s activities range from a tailgate party prior to the football game to a performance by the Golden Dragon Chinese Acrobats. A full schedule is available at www.nmu.edu/familyweekend
Playing before family will add even more motivation to an already very motivated Wildcat squad who is looking to break the recent trend of “games we could have won,” says Anderson. The Wildcats are 1-6-0 overall in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference after dropping an early lead last Saturday (Oct. 18) and eventually bowing 49-25 to Hillsdale College on the road.
“Obviously, everyone would like to have a stellar game in front of family members, but that’s not always the case” says Barr who adds that, in his case, it’s great to have a father and uncle who both played collegiate football and understand the ups and down of a season. His father, Dave, played collegiately at Anderson University and his uncle, Brett, was an NMU Wildcat.
“Whether I played football or not, I would still be extremely close to these family members, but the shared experiences just make the relationships that much stronger,” Barr says. “Having a family member involved in NMU Wildcat football history makes that bond even more special. NMU football players identify themselves as that for life. I’m sure anybody who plays for Northern (today) respects the commitments of the players who preceded them; my uncle being a Wildcat has impacted my outlook on the legacy of the NMU football scene.”
Anderson understands that legacy connection, too, having come to NMU when his son Brad was a junior member and starting running back of the Wildcat team. Currently, junior inside lineman Zach Gauthier, his nephew, is on the team.
“Having a family member on the team is great for those involved directly,” Anderson says.
Barr adds that while focusing on Saturday’s game is his priority today, he understands that one day he’ll look back on a career.
“NMU Athletics has done many wonderful things for many people throughout the years. I am just extremely thankful and blessed to have been given this opportunity to partake in something as great as NMU football,” he says. “Once my career is finished at NMU, I will join the ranks of the many individuals who sacrificed countless hours of hard work and commitment, and knowing that my uncle is already in that category will be the icing on the cake when this all ends. Football players everywhere share common goals and passions – sharing that with family is the best it gets.”
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