By DOUG DONNELLY
This story first appeared in The Blissfield Advance
OTTAWA LAKE – The Whiteford football season ended a week sooner than Bobcat players, fans and coaches wanted but the honors continue to pour in after the outstanding season.
Veteran coach Todd Thieken was recently honored by the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association as one of the assistant coaches of the year for the 2021 season. He’s coached more than 25 years, including the past several seasons with the Bobcats.
Whiteford head coach Jason Mensing said it’s a very deserving award. He said Thieken has had a great impact on the Bobcat football program.
“I couldn’t have a better teammate to work with,” Mensing said. “He has a passion for the game and works at the craft of instructing it daily, which is what great coaches do.”
Thieken got the coaching bug from his dad, Dave, who was a high school coach for 30 years in Ohio.
“He was my coach when I played at Evergreen,” Thieken said.
His first coaching job was while he was in college at Bowling Green State University when he served as a volunteer assistant at Otsego, a small school near college. His first job outside of college was at Solon High School near Cleveland.
After another coaching stop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, he returned to northwest Ohio and became head coach at Evergreen, his alma mater. He was head coach from 2005-2010, going 28-32 in six seasons.
“It was a unique experience, coming back to coach at the school I went to high school and where my dad coached,” Thieken said. “I enjoyed my time there. I liked being a head coach. It was different.”
After Evergreen, he found his way to Tecumseh, where he was a teacher. It was while he was at Tecumseh that he and Mensing met.
“We became really good friends,” Thieken said. “We talked a lot about coaching together.”
He got his chance when Mensing brought him on board at Whiteford. He was on staff when the Bobcats reached the state finals in 2016 and when they won the state championship in 2017.
Since joining the Bobcat staff he’s been focused on the defensive side of the ball. He was in the coach’s box for a couple of years but has been on the field the last couple of seasons.
“I’ve coached on both sides of the ball,” he said. “I was an offensive coordinator before, and I’ve coached on defense.
“I really enjoy watching film and putting together a game plan.”
Thieken still works in the education technical field, but no longer as a teacher. His job gives him the flexibility to coach, which he is grateful for.
“When I coach, I go all in,” he said. “I have to coach that way.”
Last summer Thieken briefly thought that the 2021 season might be his final season as an assistant at Whiteford. That changed quickly once the season started and he started breaking down film, putting together game plans and working with kids.
“The community at Whiteford is pretty unique,” he said. “You don’t have any problems with the kids. The parents are very supportive. They want their kids to win but they also want them to be pushed hard and to be treated well and to be taught about life.
“The parents are very appreciative of all of it. That rubs off on coaches. It makes us want to be better, to do better and to make sure we show up every day and give our best to the kids. Whiteford is a great culture to be part of it.”
Thieken said he’s happy to be honored by the MHSFCA.
“I’m very humbled by it,” he said. “When you look at the list, there are some really outstanding coaches honored. To be part of that group is pretty special. But you don’t win an award like that if you don’t have great kids or if you are not part of a great staff.”