By: Louie Marcinek ’16
In order to break into the world of college coaching, experience is everything. Ricky Dill, a junior, has received a rare opportunity to see what it is like to be a college football coach. Looking for an internship in college gives a young individual the chance to try out a career. For Dill, it is his chance to dip his feet in the water before possessing an undergraduate degree.
The Wittenberg tradition fills the walls of the Dill household. Dill’s father played on two Wittenberg national championship teams.
When it came to football, Dill’s father always had large expectations. Dill used those expectations as motivation to succeed on the high school turf.
“The Wittenberg coaching staff contacted me about three weeks into my senior season, and I knew that I would be a Tiger,” said Dill, referring to his high school days.
Growing up, Dill was very familiar with the city of Springfield, going to Wittenberg home games every year. He always admired the tradition that the school held.
Dill played for the junior varsity team his freshman and sophomore years at Wittenberg, but was never satisfied with being average. “I went from being one of the top players at my high school to Witt’s scout team,” Dill said. “I never felt like I could contribute on the field at the college level, but I wanted to give it my all.”
After every season, head football coach Joe Fincham sits down with his players to talk about off-season goals, academics and their feelings about the program. Unsure about his future with the program, Dill walked into coach Fincham’s office.
“I told coach my concerns, expecting the worst,” Dill said. “I didn’t want to waste a spot on the roster.”
Dill was surprised at how understanding Fincham was of his situation, telling him he didn’t want to see him leave the program. Fincham explained how there are other options besides playing. The position of a student coach was enticing, and when the offer was on the table, he wasn’t sure of what to do. Dill left the office not giving coach Fincham an answer, wanting to talk to his friends and father about the decision.
“My friends loved the idea, but I was more worried about my dad,” Dill said. Not only was his father on the football team during his college years, but also was a team captain. Dill would never have thought that he would have to talk to his father about quitting football. The pressure was a lot to handle, but the support of his friends carried a lot of that weight.
The night of his meeting with Fincham, Dill made the call. His heart was racing as he heard the phone ring, and when he answered, even his Dad knew something was wrong. He asked Dill if everything was okay before small talk was over, but Dill was still mentally preparing. He gathered his thoughts and finally said how his playing days were over.
“I didn’t want to make it sound like I was undecided,” Dill said. He talked about how his size kept him from developing with the other players, but didn’t want to leave the program. When Dill came to the end of his ramble, he told his father the offer from Fincham and, to his surprise, he was on board.
“I look back at the call and think to myself that was the moment I grew up,” said Dill, still confident about the talk.
When the sun rose, Dill walked over to the HPER Center, telling Fincham ‘yes.’
Although Dill played offensive-line his first two years in college, he was asked to help coach the defensive-line.
“I was honestly nervous about teaching something I haven’t done,” Dill said.
His saving grace was d-line and ninth year coach Tom Mescher, who worked with Dill on ways to teach proper form and technique.
“Even at the end of walk through, Coach Mesh would ask if I had anything to add,” said Dill, pleased by the respect of the older coach. Gaining respect from both the players and coaches was something he thought about a lot.
In the coaching world, age is a key factor in how players view coaches. Experience comes with age. Dill, playing with the majority of the team, felt a little uneasy on how to coach them.
“There is a major difference in how I deal with young players and the upperclassmen,” Dill said. “I feel comfortable getting after a young guy, where I look to encourage the older guys.”
Dill appreciated Fincham’s policy for players who were teammates of young coaches. The policy is that no former teammate of a coach has to refer to them as coach, but instead, by whatever they called them before. Even so, Dill finds it odd how even his former teammates still call him Coach Dill.