On the Sidelines: Westerberg coaching in Texas vs. The Nation
Allen football head coach Tom Westerberg is not one to throw out unnecessary hype or praise.
So when asked why he was selected as an assistant for Team Texas in the Texas vs. The Nation college all-star game (1:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at Eagle Stadium), he was matter of fact with his answer.
"I think it's just because the game is in Allen," Westerberg said. "Let's face it, if the game was in El Paso or San Antonio, I don't think I would've been asked."
He will assist Texas head coach, and former Dallas Cowboys safety, Bill Bates.
Others saw different reasons for the selection of Westerberg, who is 102-15 in his nine years as head coach at Allen and has won two state titles, the most recent coming last month in a 35-21 victory over Houston Lamar.
"I think this is recognition of what we've done as a program," said Steve Williams, Allen athletic director, "and more specifically, what Tom has done here at Allen."
"Coach Westerberg is a good choice," said Oliver Pierce, Allen senior wide receiver. "He is someone who doesn't ever talk down to his players. He is able to be friends with his players, but we all still respect him."
Pierce is one of three starters off Allen's state title team (along with senior linebacker Nick Cobb and senior defensive lineman Stone Drulman) that Westerberg saw compete Saturday at the Texas High School Wrestling Coaches Association Dual State Tournament, which the Eagles won for a fifth straight year.
Pierce, Cobb, Drulman all transitioned to wrestling once football ended.
"Coach Westerberg has worked really well with us," said Jerry Best, Allen wrestling head coach. "He encourages kids to do more than one sport and I think that has helped contribute to our success."
The weekend prior, Westerberg was in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the Under Armour All-America Game in which Allen senior punter Shane Tripucka was participating.
Westerberg sent Shane's parents a text saying, "kicking great," during the game.
"I can't tell you how much that meant to Shane," said Chris Tripucka, Shane's father. "The program is in good hands with Tom; he deserves every Coach of the Year award there is and I believe he has found the right formula to win many more championships at Allen."
While Westerberg has been helping Tripucka get a college scholarship, he now shifts focus to Texas vs. The Nation, where college seniors are attempting to get drafted.
"Of the three college all-star games associated with the NFL Players Association, this is the newest," Westerberg said. "This game has been pretty effective though; 95 or 96 percent of the participants have gone on to sign NFL contracts when they come out."
Westerberg is uncertain as to what all his duties will be once the players and NFL scouts arrive Jan. 28 as his talks with Bates have been about high school football.
"Bill coaches his son's team in Florida," Westerberg said, "so whenever we've talked on the phone or at the press conference we usually discussed his team preparing for the playoffs or how we had been doing in the playoffs."
Regardless of his responsibilities come kickoff, Westerberg is more excited for the week leading up to the game, which begins in earnest Jan. 29 with practices at Eagle Stadium. The plethora of college coaches, NFL coaches and NFL scouts should provide a variety of knowledge to draw from.
"We are going to sit down as a staff ahead of time and go over questions we want to ask," Westerberg said. "With as many people as are going to be here, you definitely want to use it as a learning experience."
One person of particular interest to Westerberg is The Nation head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who resurrected the Miami Hurricanes when taking over there in 1979.
"It's always fun when you get the opportunity to talk with people like that," Westerberg said. "Some are more open, while others aren't, but it's an awesome opportunity to have either way."
Westerberg is similarly excited to coach Texas A&M senior wide receiver Uzoma Nwachukwu, who was on Allen's Class 5A Division I State Championship team in 2008.
Nwachukwu, aka EZ, is one of several Metroplex alumni already announced for Team Texas with Wisconsin cornerback Devin Smith (Coppell), Baylor wide receiver Lanear Sampson (North Mesquite) and TCU wideout Skye Dawson (Dallas Christian) also taking part.
"It'll be great to be on the sideline with EZ, coaching him one more time," Westerberg said. "And if my job isn't to coach him, I might just stand next to him on the sideline with my headset on and pretend to coach him."
Westerberg has seen plenty of his players (like Nwachukwu) go compete in college, but hasn't been inclined to join them.
"That's not really the path I'm wanting to go right now," he said. "I don't like to move a lot and I enjoy the stability we have now. Maybe down the road, you never know, but I like what we've got going on here at Allen."
What Allen has built, both in terms of program and stadium, will be on display Feb. 2 when Texas vs. The Nation takes place.
"You've got a large group of players trying to make it to the next level, so they will want to impress the teams and the scouts during practices and the game," Westerberg said. "That should make this thing a lot of fun to watch."