Summers, wishbone equal success

By Carl Ackerman

Over five years later and through a midst of challenges, NIU’s offensive coordinator Mike Summers finds himself and his team at a very prestigious spot.

Summers’ offensive squad has battled its way towards the top of the NCAA team-rushing category—a position Summers must have only dreamed of when first arriving to NIU in 1985.

The Huskies owned a meager 4-6-1 record in 1984 and had undergone two coaching changes in two years with completely different coaching philosophies.

Then things began to change, again. Summers arrived along with his predecessor Pat Ruel and Head Coach Jerry Pettibone. A new and very successful coaching philosophy was about to be born at NIU. Players were skeptical of the new idea, but that was only the beginning of the challenges NIU’s coaching staff would face.

“When I first came here, it was a shock,” Summers said. “We’ve been at Texas A&M which might be the epitome of college football spirit and student involvement in extracurricular activities. When we got (to NIU), we found not every school had that type of interest in its school. The community and students had no real involvement in football or basketball teams or any extracurricular activities.”

Players doubted the coaches’ goals, and Summers said gaining that trust and respect was not easy at first but that soon changed.

“(The players) realized we cared more about the team than the individuals and more about the academics than winning football games,” Summers said. “In ‘87 the development of the team attitude did a complete one-eighty and started to become mentally tough. We started to win close games and believe in each other.”

During the ’87 season NIU experienced increased success. Much of this success was because of the wishbone attack which was still in its “infant stages.” Since 1985, the wishbone has developed into a powerful weapon.

Developing the wishbone attack was probably one of the biggest challenges the new coaching staff faced. “When I look back now, I see that we didn’t know much at the time,” Summers said.

Summers has been coaching since 1979 when he joined the University of Kentucky. In ‘82 he found himself at Texas A&M to assist Ruel with the offensive line. He then came to NIU.

“At that time I was encouraged by the opportunities to work for Jerry Pettibone and felt his beliefs were consistent with what I wanted to work for and around,” Summers said.

“It’s hard to plan the future in coaching. As long as I’m involved with Jerry Pettibone, I’ll be happy. Obviously, someday I’d like to be head coach. That’s a goal. I hope if I can be a head coach someday I’ll be just like Pettibone,” Summers said.