(Editor’s Note: Former Pacific Lutheran University head football coach Frosty Westering was named to the College Football Hall of Fame yesterday. He will be inducted in August. Kristopher Jones wrote this column for Seahawks.NET in the fall of 2003. It appeared in the King County Journal soon after, and it was a feature story in the Seahawks’ Gameday Program on December 21, 2003 – the day that Frosty Westering raised the 12th Man Flag at Seahawks Stadium.
With the 2005 NFL Draft mere hours away - and everyone's mind on the college game - we thought that re-publishing this article would be a fitting tribute to the life and career of a man who may have lived “under the radar” in college football, but always understood the real meaning of the game.
All together now…”Attaway, Frosty!”)
Far from the bright lights of the NFL or major college football, Frosty Westering has become a coaching legend in the Northwest. He retired last month after 32 straight winning seasons, four national championships and a .789 winning percentage at Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland, Washington. This year he became the ninth coach in college football history to win 300 games.
Division III college football may not seem like the “big time”, but through the years Westering passed on several opportunities to coach in the NFL and at bigger college programs.
“Bigger doesn’t always mean better,” Westering said. “I felt like I could do more good right here.”
He’s become such a popular figure that, like Santa Claus, he gets mail addressed only to: “Frosty, Tacoma, Washington.” Instead of chasing the big time, Frosty made the big time where he was.
The results speak for themselves.
Excellence on the PLU football field is a by-product of Westering’s overall life philosophy of the “double-win.” The real competition isn’t with the opposing team; the true test is in the daily challenge to play - and live - up to your best potential. The double-win comes from knowing you’ve done your very best, and more often than not, that will lead to a win on the scoreboard as well. The life lesson is in expecting excellence from the man in the mirror, and getting it.
Because his players individually, and his teams collectively, are competing against themselves, they’re free to celebrate the competitive experience that their opponents provide. In a world full of in-your-face trash-talk, the Lutes regularly help up opposing players and tell them “great play!” Teams unfamiliar with their approach to the game often think its cornball or some psychological ploy, but by game’s end they realize it’s as sincere and genuine as Frosty himself.
Above all, Frosty’s teams always have FUN.
“The model of winning is the biggest thing we’ve tried to change,” Westering says. “The only way most people know how to win is to beat somebody and if you don’t, you’re a loser. Fear is the motivation – the fear of losing. When I talk to coaches they say, ‘no Frosty, they’ve got to want to win.’ I say, you don’t understand, there are two models of winning. For us, winning is the by-product and not the goal.”
“We look at winning a different way. We’re gonna love to play the game, we’re not going to base it on what the scoreboard says and when we get done we’re going to feel good regardless of what happened because we know we gave it the best shot we’ve got. It frees kids up and they play better. They bring out the best in themselves and each other.”
“That’s a hard sell in a world that says you’re number one or you’re no one, but not everybody’s gonna win. So, what’s going to happen? They’re not going to have as much fun. We’re going to have fun regardless of the score.”
To drive home his point, Frosty pulls out one of his favorite ‘Far Side’ cartoons by Gary Larson. It shows General Custer and his men posing for a group picture the day before the battle of Little Big Horn, holding up their fingers saying, “we’re #1!”
“You don’t do your best and then become content, you become content and then you do your best. The goal isn’t the end of the road it is the road.”
PLU won the 1999 Division III National Championship by becoming the first team ever to win five straight playoff games on the road. Their opponent in the final would be Rowan University, who had finally defeated powerhouse Mount Union the week before after several unsuccessful attempts. No one thought the Lutes had a chance, but then, no one bothered to ask them.
“Todd Christiansen did the color for that game on ESPN,” Westering said, “and he did all the pre-game stuff. Todd said, ‘Frosty, you’ve got a bunch of nice guys and all, but you’re going to get killed.’”
Rowan took the kickoff and on the game’s first play from scrimmage, PLU forced and recovered a fumble. One the next play the Lutes were up 7-0. The final score was a decisive 42-13 PLU victory. The noticeably bigger Rowan players had just met an entire team full of Davids.
“Afterwards, I gave Christiansen a copy of my book and about three weeks later I got a hand written note from him. He said, ‘Frosty, I read your book and it was very interesting. I hadn’t thought about many of those things before. I realize that I was really wrong about your team. Read Jude, 1:22.’ So, I open the Bible and it says, ‘Be merciful to the doubters.’”
As the wins and the championships have piled up, so have the memories. His cramped office is carpeted in old Astroturf and pictures fill every inch of wall space. Assorted football mementos are stacked on top of each other on shelves.
Westering, by his own admission is “a big plaque guy” and he keeps a drawer full of his favorite inspirational sayings to hand out. Somehow, it’s all exactly what you’d expect from this particular 75-year old coach.
Frosty’s journey started in Iowa where he met his future wife, Donna, in kindergarten. After serving in the Marine Corps, he lettered in football at both Northwestern and Nebraska-Omaha. He later earned a doctorate in Education from the University of Northern Colorado. The confluence of sports and faith drew him to the very first meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Estes Park, Colorado. The FCA recently awarded Westering with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
It’s easy to see how Westering’s cornerstones of sports, faith, motivation and a commitment to excellence were placed, and how he built his unique philosophies on that solid foundation. In 1990, he compiled his winning life philosophies into a book called “Make the Big Time Where You Are!” Now that he’s retired, he’ll be finishing his second book called “The Strange Secret of the Big Time” and spending more time with his 13 grandchildren.
“I always knew I wanted to be a coach. I coached little kids teams back when I was in high school and I saw the tremendous influence that a coach can have on kids. These kids would do anything for you, but I realized it could either be in a positive or a negative direction.”
No one need ask what kind of coach he became.
“There’s no question that the thing that’s meant to most is the relationship with my players. All these other things that people talk about, all the championships and being in the select 300-win club, I didn’t even know what that was all about. There’s a great tradition here of being part of something that’s bigger than yourself.”
“They say you ride off into the sunset, but as you’re going toward the sun you never catch it,” Frosty said. “It’s always out there.”
For Frosty Westering, the “big time” isn’t the end of the road…it is the road. It really is the journey and not the destination.
Kristopher Jones writes regularly for Seahawks.NET. Feel free to reach him at email@example.com.