Jerry VanHavel has been a head coach for the Mason Bulldogs Varsity Football team for 26 years. Before that, VanHavel spent three years as the freshman and JV assistant coach. This fall, VanHavel turns to a new chapter.
This past year, VanHavel was offered a position as recruiter at the University of Mount Union, a school where his son plays football. The University of Mount Union is located in Alliance, Ohio. Its football program competes in the NCAA at a division three level.
VanHavel said, “I so respect and admire their program I was willing to sacrifice here to be a small part of a college football’s winningest dynasty.”
The University of Mount Union has won 12 NCAA Division III National Championships since 1993, a record for any football program in any division in a playoff format.
VanHavel moved to Mason 29 years ago, straight out of college.The whole time he has coached, and he is going on his 29th year of teaching at Mason Middle School. VanHavel has taught 6th grade for three years, as well as 7th grade math, social studies, and English for 18 years. VanHavel is teaching physical education and has been teaching health for eight years.
Ted Berryhill, principal at Mason Middle School, said VanHavel has led, taught, and inspired thousands of students and student-athletes.
Berryhill said, “His longevity and record of excellence on the field in a very demanding coaching position speaks volumes as to his leadership and ability to connect with different types of kids.”
VanHavel is very excited to start this new chapter even though leaving Mason’s football program was so difficult.
VanHavel said, “Leaving Mason football was, by far, the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. Mason football was everything to me and was very important to my family.”
VanHavel said he put everything he had into those 29 years at Mason Football so walking away was a gut wrenching.
Many players and parents were devastated to hear VanHavel was leaving. Mason High School senior and former Bulldog football player Storm Miller has a bond with VanHavel. Miller said VanHavel cares about all the kids and asks how their lives are going and if they need anything. Miller said he spent as much time during football season with VanHavel as he did with his parents.
Miller said, “What is special to me about Coach VanHavel was that when I was diagnosed with cancer my junior year, he supported me 100 percent all the way, by visiting me in the hospital, and he always wanted to make sure that I was comfortable.”
Miller said VanHavel genuinely cared about him and wanted him to get better, even if that meant he didn’t play another down in football.
Miller said, “I’m easily the player and person I am today because of VanHavel.”
VanHavel says he still has trouble coming to grips with leaving the football program.
VanHavel said, “I really wanted to coach at Mason for 40 years….29 feels like we just got started.”
VanHavel was Regional Coach of the year nine times.
VanHavel said, “We won more games at Mason in our 26 years of varsity football than the program has won in all the prior years of school history combined.”
VanHavel also said his teams won seven conference championships and one district championship. They made the state playoffs 16 times. No Mason football team had made the playoffs prior to VanHavel ever.
Greg Lattig, athletic director at Mason High School said VanHavel was instrumental to the success of Mason’s football program.
Lattig said, “His name was synonymous with our program as our teams played like he coached. No one outworked VanHavel or our team. They played hard, fundamental football.”
Lattig said VanHavel was well-known in the community through all levels of the football program from 2nd grade and up.
Miller said, “VanHavel is the definition of Mason football.”
Lattig said VanHavel built a strong foundation for the next candidate.
Lattig said, “He will do well at the next level, as football is a big part of this life. He is going to a great program where he will be able to connect with Michigan kids on behalf of Mount Union.”
Even though the decision to leave Mason was difficult, VanHavel said, “I am very excited to help Mount Union continue their success. I really enjoy recruiting and getting to see Michigan’s best high school football players and discuss with them the opportunities that are available to them at Mount Union.”
Since VanHavel’s new job is only a recruiting position, he will be able to stay in Mason, a place that he has built a foundation and calls home.