SSC coach Paul Walderzak elected to hall of fame
STANDISH — Paul Walderzak knew since he was in the ninth grade that he wanted to be a teacher and a coach. He never dreamed that his passion for football would take him to the hall of fame.
“It was a surprise, a wonderful surprise,” he said about his selection for the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. “What a great honor to be selected by my colleagues and peers.”
Walderzak played high school football at Arthur Hill in Saginaw and has coached at SSC for 33 years, starting as a freshmen football coach in 1978 and taking over as varsity head coach in 1982, accumulating 162 wins.
He will be honored during the 2011 Hall of Fame Induction at the Four Points Sheraton in Ann Arbor on March 26 at 6 p.m, featuring guest speaker University of Michigan head coach Brady Hoke.
Former players and colleagues were not surprised to see their friend and mentor selected to the hall of fame.
Former SSC quarterback Austin Collier said Walderzak deserves his spot in the hall of fame.
“There is no one more deserving than coach Walderzak,” he said. “He has meant a lot to me in my life and I know he has meant a lot to many other players he coached.”
Collier played for Walderzak between 2006-08. During the 2008 season, the Panthers had an undefeated regular season. Collier now plays safety at Bowling Green University in Ohio.
“Coach helped me with so many things,” he said. “He helped me on the field, but he also helped me during recruiting my senior season.”
Former player and current freshman football coach Marty Malcolm called Walderzak, “One of the biggest mentors in my life.”
Malcolm said he played for Walderzak before graduating in 1988. Adding that Walderzak helped get him to the next level at Central Michigan University.
“Back in the day, when I was younger, Paul came to me and told me he believed that I could play football in college if I worked hard enough,” he said. “At times when those two-a-days got difficult, and I did not know if I could continue on, I would call Paul and he would reassure me I could continue on.”
Malcolm said that playing for Walderzak helped him do things he never would have believed he could.
“I got to go to college, play six weeks in the (National Football League). I got to experience the world,” he said. “A lot of that was a direct result of playing for Coach Walderzak.”
Malcolm said that Walderzak is a teacher and a mentor.
“I hope that my son will have the chance to play for him someday,” he said. “I was out of the sport for nearly 15 years, and he gave me the chance to get back something that was missing. Now I have that chance to coach and turn these kids into men.”
Like Malcom, Walderzak said he was influenced by many people in his life.
“I was fortunate, in my life, to be influenced by people who led me in the right direction,” he said.
Walderzak has continued to help mentor young men on the football field.
“It’s a great thing, getting to work with young people, whether that be in the classroom or on the field,” he said. “There is nothing like bumping into former players and students after a few years, and see that they are doing well. That is so fulfilling.”
This school year will be Walderzak’s final year teaching, but he said that he is not ready to give up coaching just yet.
“I have always wondered what it was like to coach and not teach at the same time,” he said. “I know a few coaches who said it has worked out well for them. I am not going away yet.”
Walderzak said he has had the privilege of working with some great people during his years as a coach.
“All of the people I worked with are such a special group,” he said. “They have all been excellent teachers and great motivators. Most of all, they are good people. I could not ask for anything more.”