Western Illinois opens spring practices with new ‘pound the rock’ philosophy

Western Illinois’ road to the 2022 season begins with spring practices under new head coach Myers Hendrickson. (Photo by Barry Bottino)

By Dan Verdun

Newly hired Western Illinois head coach Myers Hendrickson knows his surroundings well, but it’s spring practice that will allow the 32-year-old and his staff to learn more about their team.

Hendrickson, who turns 33 next month, was hired in December as the 31st head coach in Leatherneck history. His father Mark served as WIU offensive coordinator 1999 to 2007 and then as head coach 2008 to 2012. Myers played for his father from 2009 to 2011 as a wide receiver.

The work that lies ahead

Hendrickson and his staff face a tall task. WIU is coming off a 2-9 fall and many of its key players have either graduated or entered the transfer portal.

The staff landed 17 players in February’s national annual signing day. In addition, WIU has continued its pursuit of transfers from both the junior college and all divisions level.

Of note is junior college All-American quarterback Byron Jarrett, who after signing with the Leathernecks in February announced March 10 on Twitter that he was leaving Macomb to reenter the transfer portal.

On the flip side, WIU recently announced the addition of Morton (Ill.) High School running back Seth Glatz, who rushed for 3,246 yards and 46 touchdowns last fall.

Glatz’s other offers were from Division 2 Quincy and a handful of NAIA programs. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, Glatz helped Morton make the Class 5A semifinals for the first time in school history.

Pounding the rock

Henrickson is accustomed to success. He racked up a 30-4 record, which included two Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) championship titles at NAIA Kansas Wesleyan prior to being hired at WIU.

“Our goal is to pound the rock. What that means is no matter how many times you swing, you keep swinging. We’re going to be a process-driven program,” Hendrickson told Prairie State Pigskin last month. “You pound the rock 1,000 times and you may not have the results you want, but that 1,001st swing is the big breakthrough.

“And the breakthrough, whenever that happens, that’s not significant. It’s the work along the way that is significant. And that’s what we’re going to be defined by as a program.”

With his long-established ties to Macomb and WIU, Hendrickson strives to reignite the Leatherneck legacy.

“The big thing about being a Leatherneck and something we take a ton of pride in is we’re the only school in the country that is allowed to use military term for our nickname. That was accomplished by legendary coach Ray ‘Rock’ Hanson and that’s who our field is named after. He was a legendary coach and administrator here at Western Illinois University,” Hendrickson said. “We really want to celebrate that history.”

With that in mind, Hendrickson has established “Hanson Heroes,” part of which includes his team split up into workout and spring practice groups with each unit being named after a WIU great from the past.

“It’s a way of bridging the gap from our tradition to the exciting future of our program,” he said.

That future continues through the practices that culminate with a 6:30 p.m. April 22 kickoff for the annual spring game at Hanson Field in Macomb.

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