For a coach that’s always put the spotlight near the bottom of his priority list, Mike Rader either has a knack for these things or the football fates watching over his career have a certain perverse sense of humor.
The chatter on tonight’s game began while Rader was still packing up his office of three years at Maryville College. After back-to-back conference titles and last year’s runner-up finish, there was little surprise when Rader’s alma mater ETSU came calling with an offer for MC’s head coach to join the staff reanimating the Bucs after a decade-long slumber — not that different from his first game as head Scot when he took MC to play his previous employer at Huntingdon.
For Rader, who was a three-year starter for ETSU, then a graduate assistant on the 2003 staff that played what was the Bucs final football game until last week, it was the dream job. And when he made the move in February, he did it in that straight forward way that marked his tenure at Maryville. No mattresses went up in flames on the MC campus. No moving trucks backed up in the middle of the night. No bad blood was left boiling.
Despite that, there was the niggling little matter of tonight’s game. Rader was the head coach at MC, who had shepherded the agreement in 2014 for his Scots to play the Bucs as a win-win situation. A year later he’s on the opposite sideline coaching the ETSU receivers tonight for the Bucs’ second contest after the 12-year hiatus.
Of course there’s speculation on how much motivation Maryville’s players and coaches are taking from their former skipper wearing Blue & Gold. Kick in that MC’s defensive coordinator last season, Scott Brumett — also a former Buc — is now in charge of the ETSU linebackers, and there’s lots of little thoughts on how certain Scots might want to show their former coaches what they can do and what they are missing out on by the decision to leave.
It would be a great build up and billing to the game tonight. But it isn’t the sense that new head coach Shaun Hayes and his Scots are giving off. While a touch of it is human nature, there isn’t that vibe like the Scots are the ex needing to work out some baggage issues on the former coach and his new love.
“It’s going to be exciting to see them,” said Hayes, who was Rader’s offensive coordinator.
“I talk to them almost every day. Coach Brumett and Coach Rader texted me (Saturday), I texted them (last) Thursday night, It’s going to be great to see them. They’re some of my best friends.”
That level of appreciation should be no more surprise that the move to ETSU. When Rader arrived at Maryville the first game on the schedule was at Huntingdon College against the Hawks and the coaching staff he had just left as an assistant to take the head job with the Scots. There were no evil glances from Hawk receivers to the MC sideline that afternoon, no taunts, just another game and time to take care of business while the clock ran.
There were extended handshakes and catching up after MC’s loss — the Scots went 0-3 against HC under Rader — but no animosity. There just wasn’t any bad blood that band-aids couldn’t fix.
That mindset of the emotional tempered by the professional has been Rader’s hallmark. It’s a stamp he’s left to never let highs get too high or the lows get too low.
It’s how he came to MC and how he left. It’s the true stamp he left on the program. It’s the way Maryville will carry itself tonight and the way ETSU will work in the future.