The nationwide search for a new head football coach at Defiance College is over.
DC has tabbed the maestro of one of the top offenses in this part of the nation to take over the helm of the program, with the announcement of Thomas More offensive coordinator Brian Sheehan as the program's 31st mentor.
"I'm excited," said Sheehan. "I started to get fired up the Monday night of the interview process. I met with five alums, one of them was coach (Mike) Snyder that coached here. We had a three-hour dinner meeting and their passion for this place really got me excited about what it could be. I see a tremendous amount of potential in the Defiance College football program and I see how more and more Defiance College is reaching its potential in moving forward.
"Everything is on the upswing here ... we're adding new sports, we've got a multi-million dollar athletic center (George M. Smart Athletic Center that is nearing completion) and we've got a president that's so passionate about developing students and making this whole experience about them. I couldn't go wrong going to Defiance College."
The head coach at Thomas More arch-rival and HCAC member Mount St. Joseph had high praise for the new DC coach. The Ohio River neighbors tangle on the final Saturday of the regular season each November in the annual Bridge Bowl.
"Brian is bright, innovative, a very good recruiter and a professional," lauded College of Mount St. Joseph head coach Rod Huber, whose Lions lost the last four Bridge Bowls to Thomas More.
Huber and Mount St. Joseph come to Defiance on Oct. 13 next season.
"He has done an excellent job of helping Thomas More become a Top-10 program in the NCAA," Huber added. "He will be a great fit in the HCAC. He's a good young coach."
Thomas More is 39-7 with two undefeated regular seasons and a pair of trips to the second-round of the playoffs (2009 and 2010) in the last four years.
Sheehan also contributed to X&O Labs Coaching Research and Manual of Football Drills and Skills, which were published in 2011 and he has lectured at multiple football coaching clinics in the past several years.
"I am thrilled that coach Sheehan will be leading our football program," said DC president Mark Gordon. "Brian brings significant experience and knowledge, much enthusiasm and dedication, and a commitment to creating a truly superb Defiance football program that will spur our student-athletes to excel in the classroom, on the football field and in life."
Sheehan is a Cleveland area native and a 2003 graduate of Marietta College where he was a three-year starter at tight end and started on offense and defense his senior season with the Pioneers. He earned undergraduate degrees in psychology and business management from Marietta.
"When we began the national search in November for our new head football coach we were seeking someone who would bring both discipline and vision to the football program," said Defiance College athletic director Jenni Morrison. "We were looking for a coach who would mentor these young men, help them grow on and off the field and prepare them for life after college. I believe that Brian will do all of that and more."
As an assistant coach, Sheehan comes from a championship lineage.
While at Thomas More for five seasons, Sheehan's spread-option attack helped the northern Kentucky institution capture the last four Presidents' Athletic Conference championships and make four straight NCAA Division III playoff appearances.
During his five seasons with the Saints, Sheehan's offenses have been among the nation's best in the rushing department, including 200 yards rushing per game this past fall. After breaking the program record for points per game in 2009, Sheehan guided the Saints to 33.2 ppg in 2010 to set a new school and averaged 33.8 ppg this past season.
"My background is an option-based background," said Sheehan. "It was perfect for the athletes that we had. Looking at the way the team is built currently (at Defiance College), it's built with athletic guys at quarterback, it's built with tough guys up front, it's built with some guys that can make plays on the perimeter and certainly I think we have some running backs that can do some special things with the football. We're going to maximize everyone's skill set and put together a scheme that's going to let everyone do what they do best and hopefully do it better than the other team does to us."
Being aggressive is also Sheehan's philosophy on the other side of the ball.
"The most successful types of defenses I've been around are aggressive," said Sheehan. "They bring a lot of pressure. As a guy with an offensive background, I know the types of problems heavy blitzing can create. We want to make sure defensively that we're dictating the terms to the offense, that we're causing trouble, that we're creating doubt. It's going to be high risk, high reward at times but that's how we want it. Nobody ever won anything by defending it. You gotta go get it and that's going to be our mentality in our program."
Before his time at Thomas More, Sheehan was an assistant at Hobart College in New York for two seasons and helped the Statesmen to the playoffs both seasons. He also spent two years as an assistant at Heidelberg University.
Defiance College is coming off a 4-6 season that included the resignation of nine-year head coach Robert Taylor at mid-season. Following Taylor's resignation, defensive coordinator Nate Jensen stepped in to fill in on an interim basis.
"I want to thank Nate Jensen for the excellent job that he did stepping in as the interim head coach during the middle of the season," said Gordon.
Sheehan, whose staff is still in the process of being determined, is scheduled to take over at DC on Jan. 2.
"I want to develop the mentality of going 1-0 every day. In order for that to happen we've got to be committed to operating up here at our highest level," said Sheehan, while stretching his hand as high as he could above his head. "If we get in a habit - and it's really a habit - of going 1-0 every day, then when we get to our season we'll have a 200-day winning streak going into our first game. Then things will continue to progress from there.
"Things don't always happen as quickly as you'd like them to," he added. "We made the analogy of hammer away at a big boulder. You pound away and it finally cracks but you know it wasn't that last shot that did it. It was all of them before that.
"You win with people," continued Sheehan. "So every person that touches the Defiance College football program has to be committed to being great. Every person that reaches out to our players has to be committed to being great. We're talking about coaching staff, we're talking about administrative staff and within the program I see the seniors as the catalysts for moving the program forward. We had very strong senior leadership at Hobart and Thomas More. I'd say the common thread was that you have a core group of people that are committed to being champions."
Sheehan is also energized to begin recruitment of future Yellow Jackets.
"I can't wait to get started with the recruiting process," said Sheehan. "This program has been very strong in the tri-state area (Ohio, Indiana and Michigan) and in the state of Florida. We're going to do everything we can to make the guys in the 419 area code stay and play in the 419. We're going to be committed to recruiting all the high schools in this area, big and small. Then certainly out of state, we've got upwards of 30 guys that are from the state of Florida that are happy here and love Defiance College football and Defiance College. We will go everywhere and anywhere to recruit the guys that are the best fit for the program."
Along with his contributions on the gridiron at Thomas More, Sheehan created the Thomas More Leadership Workshop to promote team unity and individual development within the Saints' football program, led an overhaul of the recruiting and communication database and coordinated the program's Relay for Life team for the American Cancer Society.
The Sheehan era will get underway on Sept. 1 when schedule-newcomer Albion College visits Justin F. Coressel Stadium at 1:30 p.m.