Mark Coyle has spent much of the past few days impressing his new employers at the University of Minnesota and bringing a sense of confidence to the Gophers faithful.
This will sound familiar to some folks in Waterloo, Iowa, where the newly named Gophers athletic director was more than a standout student-athlete 30 years ago at Columbus Catholic High School.
“My memories of him are of an incredible young man,” said Gary Schnieders, a longtime history teacher and one of Coyle’s former football coaches. “Not just as an athlete, and he was a very good athlete, but also as somebody of integrity, of character, of work ethic. He was one of those kids who knew what he had to do and how to get it done.”
Mark Gallagher was a teammate of Coyle’s on the school’s 1986 Iowa Class 3A state championship football team. Gallagher, who still lives in Waterloo and works for the parks and recreation department, said Coyle was popular without trying.
“Everybody liked him because he treated everyone the same,” Gallagher recalled. “You didn’t have to try to like him. You just did.”
Gallagher said that Coyle was a natural leader: “He always had composure. He was one of those guys that never got rattled.”
Schnieders, who still teaches as Columbus Catholic, said the 1986 team still comes up in his lessons.
“I tell my students even today that team was successful because they were a great group of student-athletes,” Schnieders said. “They won not just on the athletic field but also in the classroom. They knew how to think and apply those skills to whatever they were doing.”
Coyle went on to become a four-year letter-winning wide receiver at Drake.
“He was fast, light on his feet, and a good route runner,” said Rob Ash, Drake’s head coach during Coyle’s final two seasons there. “But what I really remember was how smart he was. At Drake, we didn’t have a physical education curriculum or football scholarships. He, like a lot of guys there, had to use his head more to be successful.”
Schnieders, a longtime Iowa Hawkeyes fan, said he expects Coyle’s hiring will create a lot of Gophers fans in Waterloo, which sits about two hours south of Austin, Minn.
Within reason, of course.
“Oh, we’ll always be cheering for the Hawkeyes first,” Schnieders said, “but I expect Minnesota to be next.”