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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Football Lessons Taught to a Science Geek

John Malpert lives in Toledo, OH. He holds a Ph. D in Organic Chemistry and is decades removed from the rock hard high school football practice field at Seeman Park in Linton, ND; but he has not forgotten the important life lessons he learned there, or the man who taught them. From 1983-1986 Malpert was a mediocre end for the Linton Lions. In his own words, “I was never a great athlete, just a skinny science geek who loved to play sports.  All through junior high and junior varsity, I was never in the starting lineup, but I was always running and lifting weights during the offseason, which eventually caught Coach Imdieke's eye, even though I wasn't that talented.”

Dan Imdieke
I had deduced long before I heard from Malpert that Imdieke was loyal to his seniors. Pay your dues and you will get your chance. Malpert’s experience validates my assumption. “I remember thinking that he (Imdieke) was nuts when he told me during the summer after my junior year to keep working hard because he planned on starting me at right end on offense,” Malpert remembered. “I kept working hard, and he kept his word.  Not only did I start on offense my senior year, but Imdieke made sure that I had my ‘moment in the sun’.  (About) two-thirds of the way through the season in a game that Linton had well in hand, he called for a pass play to me on the one yard line so I could score a touchdown.  He never specifically said ‘this is for all your hard work,’ but I knew the minute that the play came into the huddle why Imdieke was calling it.”

 Malpert is still touched to this day by Imdieke’s gracious act. “In all my years of football, I only scored that one touchdown. To this day, some twenty-five years later, I can remember clearly  every detail of that play.  That one touchdown was very special to me in more ways than one because my father was in the stands that night.  My folks were divorced, and my father lived in another town, four or five hours away.  In all my years of junior high, JV and varsity football, I am certain that my dad was only able to come to three or four games at the most.  And yet he was there on the night that I scored my only touchdown.  I am positive that Imdieke didn't know that my dad was going to be there that night, as I had only found out myself a few hours before game time.  It was just a case of Imdieke being Imdieke.  He was going to do the right thing and give one of his least talented players a moment in the sun. In the end, his small payback of recognition turned out to be an extra special moment that I never will forget. That's just typical Imdieke, taking something good and turning it into something great.”

 Malpert remembers few details about winning and losing in high school. He says he would be hard pressed to remember a season’s final win/loss record; let alone a score to a particular game. “What I do remember,” the scientist says, “are the life lessons I learned just watching how Imdieke lived his life.”

 Malpert readily concedes that he was a pretty unremarkable player and that his old coach, having coached so many players over the last 35 years, might have a hard time even recalling his face. But the coaches’ influence on this former “science geek” end was indelible.  Malpert remembers one specific demand Imdieke made.  “He always insisted that the players on the left side of the line block just as hard when a sweep was being run around the right side because ‘you just never know when our running back might break one, and the blocking on the back side might be the difference between a touchdown and the pursuit catching up,’ he would say.  Do the right thing, do it all the time and more often than not, good things will happen - that was one of the many lessons I still use today that I learned from Imdieke. I think that one of the reasons that Imdieke is such a success is that he lives his life very much like the lessons that he teaches on the football field.”

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