Whitworth University introduced Rod Sandberg into the community by hiring him to be the new head coach for the football team last December. Before coming to Whitworth, Sandberg was a longtime defensive assistant coach at Wheaton College. He has coached six players to eight NCAA Division III All-American honors and 49 All-Conference players during his time at Wheaton.
Coach Sandberg has been given an opportunity to start fresh with Whitworth players and give a new meaning to their approach to next season.
Freshman running back Duke DeGaetano said that one of Sandberg’s goals is to improve the team’s perception in the community.
“I think his impact will be having every player on the team be a man of character, integrity and hard work once they are done with their four years of football and school. He will also impact us by bringing in a new energy that our football team needs in order to become Northwest Conference champions,” DeGaetano said.
After a 4-6 season in 2013, Sandberg looks to create a cohesive team of players who are eager to win through trusting their faith, thinking about their future, building a strong family and having fun, Sandberg said.
“We don’t focus on winning, we focus on two things: how we can play to our potential and play the way we are capable of [by focusing] on process,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg has a passion for his players to grow as a family through the power of faith and the support of coaches as they prepare for next season, Sandberg said.
“We want this to be a football family and we are working hard to create that. It’s a Whitworth culture and we do life together. I and the other coaches owe it to the team to play the best players but treat everyone the same,” Sandberg said.
Players who were on the football team last year have seen a new tempo in practices and expect to see improvements to be made on and off the field.
“Coach Sandberg is extremely discipline oriented, puts accountability on all of us and allows us to lean on one another,” junior wide receiver Drew Clausen said. “He is personable, going out of his way to make you feel comfortable. He provides us with energy, you can feel it through the off season and spring ball; I’m super excited to get out there and play ball.”
Sandberg highlighted how important his family is to him, especially his two sons, Derek and Toby who are 7 and 4 years old. If he is not working to build the positive atmosphere of the team, he is at home with his wife, Amy, and sons.
Whether it’s riding a bull, dog sledding in Canada or running a triathlon, Sandberg pushes his limits and lives on the edge. The idea of leadership is fascinating to Sandberg and believes that building leaders from when the player is a freshman to a senior is highly important, Sandberg said.
“What can our staff do for you to prosper and become better as an individual, influence lives and be sincere in faith. That’s what I’m about and what this school is about,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg is a dedicated father, husband, mentor and coach who puts the needs of others before his own. Not only has Sandberg so far been a public figure for the Whitworth community, he also has hopes to inspire each player that he encounters.
“God had called us and it felt like that call was to come to Whitworth. Once I had learned more about Whitworth, I was able to see that this is a place where we pursue excellence in everything they do. This is a people place, and people matter. All of the professors, other coaches, and president, I want to align myself to those people,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg hopes to lead the football team next season to a winning record as they play against Lewis & Clark at home for their first game together. Sandberg’s motto is something he stays true to and expects for every student-athlete who plays for him.
“Playing football in our program will be one of the greatest experiences of a young man’s life,” Sandberg said.
Tyler Jezierski Staff Writer