McKim coaching style should fit well at New Prairie
An undersized offensive lineman as a high school football player, Casey McKim needed to make up for what he may have been lacking in physical ability in order to have a chance.
"I always had to find an edge," said the newly-hired New Prairie coach.
Though just 5-foot-7 and 210 pounds, McKim battled in the trenches for Valparaiso, finally earning his chance as a senior. He knows, too, that he may not have initially stood out to New Prairie, which reportedly explored other avenues, even offering the job to other candidates before finally connecting with McKim, the offensive coordinator for a powerful Valparaiso offense the last two seasons. In the end, he's not the least bit concerned about how he arrived, simply that he did.
"Actually, my part of the process went tremendously fast," McKim said. "I heard all the news about who it was, that there were multiple groups of people. You can look at it many ways, but an opportunity is an opportunity. These are unprecedented times. I had no reason to leave Valpo. It's a tremendous place. But sometimes an opportunity comes at a point in your life when you don't expect it, and you don't question it."
As it turns out, New Prairie may have done just fine in not getting a coach with a big name or lengthy resume', rather matching up with a first-time head coach regarded for having a strong football mind, the ability to connect with people and a burning desire to succeed in the game he loves. All those qualities will fly well in a community where folks aren't afraid of sweat, dirt and extra effort.
"I believe New Prairie's reputation stands for itself," said McKim, whose former players praised him on social media. "It's a hard-working, blue-collar community, a football community with a rich tradition. There aren't a lot of opportunities like that out there. (Valpo) coach (Bill) Marshall is fantastic. He does a tremendous job of asking people for input, which allows everyone to grow in the process. Every good coach, every person I've been with, above and below, I've learned something from them. You mostly remember the positives, but sometimes you learn what not to do, too."
On the surface, Valpo, where McKim has spent most of his life, and New Prairie, don't seem to have that much in common, whether it's the size or student background, but he sees some commonalities.
"It reminds me a lot of Valpo because of the community, the people, and it's the leaders in the community who keep that feeling," McKim said. "I've been in smaller towns before that don't have that small-town feel. You don't connect. It's unique wherever you go, but that idea of family, being connected to the community, is one of the major reasons (New Prairie appealed to me)."
The Cougars' recent on-field success is another. McKim likes the idea of coming into an established program and building on what's happened rather than starting from scratch, as novice head coaches often have to do, even if it means succeeding a hall of famer like Russ Radtke.
"Coaches all have extremely different personalities," McKim said. "It comes down to two things -- one, being athletic, and two, holding people to the high standards that are necessary to be successful as a football team. Obviously, we're a little behind, but there's no better time to be behind when you're home with nothing to do. It could be a lot worse."
Like Valpo, New Prairie features a run-based offense behind a massive line that's way bigger than McKim was as a player.
"Some of it is similar to what we did at Valpo, but we'll have to take a look at it and fit all those pieces together," McKim said. "I'll work with the other coaches to find out the strengths and weaknesses, and we'll try to use those strengths. The big thing you have to prepare for is, when teams take away what you do well, you hope you can still execute at the level you need to. Our goal is to be the most physical football team every game we play. No matter who we play, we have to be physical and technically sound. That has to consistently be who we are."
A big offensive line, like the one he had at Valparaiso, will be a strong starting point for Casey McKim as he takes over as New Prairie football coach. (Photo by Ben Bachmann)