LHU football is looking for a fresh start under Coach Mulrooney today at the Post | News, Sports, Jobs

PROVIDED PHOTO DeAndrew Wakefield of Lock Haven returns for the Bald Eagles, who are in charge today.

The Lock Haven football team kicks off its season today against Post under new coach Dan Mulrooney. Mulrooney — who was hired in January as Bald Eagles program manager — is a former NCAA Division I football player at Boston College.

As a coach, Mulrooney came from Anna Maria College, a Division III institution in Paxton, Massachusetts, where he led the team to a historic 2021 season where the program saw its first-ever appearance in an NCAA tournament. From leading a program in a historic season last year to coaching a new group of players in another part of the country, Mulrooney had his work cut out for him. But he is ready to change the program and the culture of football at Lock Haven.

“It’s the most exciting place for me in the country,” said Mulrooney. “When I looked at the work and the history of the place, I thought it was an exciting opportunity to transform a place that hasn’t had much success over the past year.”

The football program at Lock Haven has not been very successful for the past three seasons. In 2018 and 2019 the Bald Eagles went 2-9 in both seasons, and in 2020 the season was of course canceled due to COVID-19. When the Bald Eagles returned to the field in 2021, the streak of poor seasons continued as Lock Haven picked up a win in their season opener but then lost 10 straight games to end their season.

The time for a change of coach was obviously necessary. In January, the Bald Eagles found their guy in Mulrooney. But what many don’t know are the challenges Mulrooney faced before football practices even started or before players set foot on campus. There has been a process for Mulrooney since he was hired in January, and there will be an ongoing process as he and his coaching staff change the culture and what happens day in and day out.

“What makes the job more difficult is the date of hire”, said Mulrooney. “I inherited a roster of just 45 players in the spring. In the beginning, I put together a great team of great young people. The second thing we did was recruit, we went everywhere. We had about 68 or 69 rookies after signing day. We got into the summer months, got organized and had a pre-season camp.

As Coach Mulrooney and his staff prepared the team for pre-season camp and eventually on campus, now was the time to put things together – team culture, team camaraderie, principles team – to name a few. The job of the coaching staff now was to get the team to adhere to what the coaches preached every day. Part of the process Coach Mulrooney has for his team is to make training a priority to focus on the finer points of being a good team.

“Our goal (as a program) is to have no turnovers, no penalties,” said Coach Mulrooney. “We have our codes here as technical staff of what we preach to players. We want to improve game by game and make the team improve every week. I tell players all the time, “we’re going to chase progress like we’re chasing success.” Practices are what really matters and that’s what I want the guys to focus on.

Having the will to win is important – and it’s something Coach Mulrooney and his team want his guys to have – but he wants his guys to expect to win as well. It’s a principle that can change the team’s state of mind before every training session and every game.

“Everyone wants to win, but the teams that expect to win have a different swagger and a different level of confidence. So we want our team to have that swagger.

As this new era of football approaches, the Bald Eagles will surely have their fair share of growing pains. Whether the games don’t go the way they want or the practices are different than planned, there will be tough times. But Coach Mulrooney wants his players to enjoy those moments too.

When these moments are embraced, leadership will also come out. With a roster of over 100 players – and some of them senior citizens who have embraced evil over the past three years – the stakes and the will to win are going to be high. But Coach Mulrooney says those seniors have already signed on and he’s happy with that.

“Leadership is only tested when things go wrong,” said Mulrooney. “I’m really proud of the seniors we have in our team. They’ve been through a lot here, but there’s been great buy-in from them. My goal is to make their experience the best, whether it’s branding, marketing or coaching. I will give them the best possible experience.

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