Full Q&A with Jerry Olszewski

Jerry Oslzewski, the third and final candidate for the Augustana football coaching vacancy, visited with the Argus Leader in the chapel on the Augustana campus on Friday, which seemed somewhat appropriate.
Oslzewski quickly identified himself as a strong man of faith who sees his mission as mentoring and developing young people in addition to simply win football games.
That’s not to say Oslzewski is overbearing in his religious convictions or that he came across as a square, but he has spent the last five seasons coaching at private, Division III St. Olaf College in Minnesota, an institution that is similar in profile to Augustana College. That makes the 44-year-old Oslzewski an attractive candidate, as he also boasts a 32-18 record at St. Olaf — including 15-5 the last two seasons.
While prior candidates David Brown and Daren Wilkinson seemed eager to sell themselves for the job, Oslzewski was far more reserved, seeming content to let his record speak for itself.
Q: Tell people a little about yourself.
A: I’m a pretty simple man — I’m a Christian man who loves to coach football, a husband and a father in that order. I’ve been married for 15 years and have three children. I’ve known I wanted to be a coach since I was in fifth or sixth grade.
Q: St. Olaf seems like a good job that’s similar to Augustana. Why the interest?
A: The level of competition. The opportunity to get to compete at the next level. The resources are there to compete not only regionally but nationally. To be a part of maybe the best Division II conference in the country, and to be a part of a wonderful community that’s a great place to raise a family. And the mission of the college is something I already have at St. Olaf so it wouldn’t be a huge departure for me.
Q: Some people might be put off by St. Olaf being Division III, but you’re in the MIAC, a pretty good league. Can you address any doubts people might have about the level of play at D3?
A: I’d love to talk to any of those people — I believe we play in the best conference in Division III. I have probably 10 kids on my team that could play for Augustana tomorrow. It’s good football — very football. A lot of those kids had opportunities to go Division II. I spent nine years at Minnesota State so I know what it takes to be a successful student athlete at this level.
Q: Do you find yourself recruiting against D2 and NSIC schools often at St. Olaf?
A: All the time. Every day. Some of our best players had multiple Division II offers.
Q: Augustana has a new in-town rival in USF. St. Olaf also has an in-town rival (Carleton College). So you have some familiarity with what you’d potentially be getting into, right?
A: Yes, definitely. We do have a rival in our same conference and same town. It’s big to alumni and big to our kids. I lost to them the first two years but we learned how to not let that happen again.
Q: Is that something you embrace? Some coaches try to treat it as just another game.
A: They’re in our conference and in our division. It’s a big game. Obviously it doesn’t count any more or less than the other games, but it’s for city bragging rights. It’s exciting for both schools.
Q: Do you have a dream job?
A: No, there’s not a dream job for me. It’s just to be at a place where I can mold me into being the best they can be, and be better when they leave. If I’m in a place where I can do that and help them become great fathers and husbands then that’s the right place for me.
Q: Let’s say you had interest in a recruit who was very talented but has a public school background and doesn’t have much involvement in his faith. Would you decide that kid was not the right fit for Augustana, or would you continue to pursue him?
A: Absolutely I would. I didn’t have my faith at that time in my life. It comes at different times for everybody and I don’t want to give up on one single kid. It’s about celebrating the diversity of the school. I’ve had several players at St. Olaf who came to me with little no faith. One of the greatest things I’ve seen happen is their transition in growth in that time. If I’d gave up on them that wouldn’t have happened. When that happens that’s as special as winning the biggest game of the year.