After a six-year hiatus from being a head football coach, Rodney Lossow begins his first season at the helm at Minneapolis South this week.
Lossow, a South alumnus who starred with the football team in the early 1980s, stepped down from coaching at Minneapolis Roosevelt after the 2010 season.
One factor was a decline in participation numbers, but he also used his time away to coach his sons in Longfellow neighborhood youth football in Minneapolis. He also developed his ministry, R.O.C.K. Men’s Ministry.
“I kind of knew when I left there that I probably wasn’t done [coaching],” Lossow said.
He journeyed back to Minneapolis South, joining coach Lenny Sedlock’s staff as an assistant three years ago. He assumed the head coaching position after Sedlock stepped down, and now leads some of the same players he mentored in Longfellow football. That includes his son, Josiah, a junior quarterback and safety.
“I have some [former] third-graders on my team now that are juniors,” Lossow said.
Longfellow alumni with the Tigers also include Michael Werner, a senior tight end and defensive end who hopes to bounce back after an injury-riddled 2016.
“He’s really involved with the players; not just on the field but outside the field,” Werner said.
Dakarai Oats, a senior running back and nose guard, said Lossow runs packed practices with only the mandatory breaks.
“He works a lot on [instilling] responsibility and being a better man on and off the field,” said Oats, who also played for Lossow in the Longfellow program.
He takes over a team hoping to improve after a 0-9 season. Among returning starters, the Tigers have three two-way linemen back in juniors Tre Thompson and Quinnlan Woodberry and senior Shaun Lumbar. Junior wide receiver and cornerback Kodiak Shipquist also was a starter last year.
Going to Minneapolis South fit naturally for Lossow, who already had been teaching adapted physical education there and at Minneapolis Roosevelt. He began his teaching career after a stint in pro football and a standout college football career at Wisconsin. New England picked Lossow in the 10th round of the 1988 NFL draft.
“My first professional snap in a preseason game was to [5-10] Doug Flutie, and it was about 2 feet over his head,” said Lossow, who played center. “Flutie got up, got it and scrambled for like 50 yards and saved my job.”
Lossow didn’t make the final cut and then journeyed through the Canadian Football League, the NFL again and concluded with the defunct World League of American Football. He said he wants to “paint a picture of reality” for his players “but not crush their dreams,” either.
Whether teaching or coaching, Lossow keeps the purpose of developing character in mind for his students and athletes. It keeps him going with football, where participation numbers continue to struggle mightily. Lossow said 120 players initially signed up, but as of last week he had only 40 to 45 — normal for Minneapolis public schools.
“I just really feel God has placed me here,” Lossow said. “I really believe that I can take these young men, and through my experiences in life, I can give them some qualities and character traits that are actually going to help them later on in life.”
Players growing up without a strong father presence has been common, too, Lossow said. He considers it his role to create a family environment, which also includes some fun. Players stayed at a hotel Saturday for team-building after a scrimmage in Austin.
Lossow hopes to build a winning program again. No Tigers team has gone .500 or better since 2010. He said the team staying healthy will play a critical role.
“We have a great shot at going .500 or better,” Lossow said. “We’re going to have to win those close games.”
Minneapolis South opens its season at home against defending Class 1A champion Minneapolis North on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
“We can compete against them, and when you can compete against a team, you have the chance to win,” Lossow said.