Players react to Nielsen’s retirement
March 29, 2016
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On Wednesday March 16, longtime Pascack Valley football coach Craig Nielsen announced his retirement after 15 seasons in a meeting with his players. It’s evident Nielsen was well liked and well respected—not just as a coach, but as a person as well—by all that played for him. His announcement had a profound impact on the players, and these are just some of the reactions:
Noah Baumgarten, junior-linebacker– “I had no idea what the meeting was about. I thought it was a meeting to hand out shirts,” Baumgarten said. He then went on to talk about the tone of the meeting and what specifically was said, “He [Nielsen] talked about how we have a long journey, but then went on to say it was a journey he was not going to be a part of,” Baumgarten said. For Baumgarten, that’s when it set in what Nielsen was actually saying. The reaction of Baumgarten and the room alike was similar. “The whole room went dead silent, and some people even started to tear up,” he said. On Craig Nielsen the coach, Baumgarten was quite laudatory. “He’s a master motivator that tells it how it is. But more importantly, he wants to make you a better player,” the linebacker said. And as for Craig Nielsen the person, Baumgarten was equally complimentary. Baumgarten suffered his second debilitating shoulder injury in as many seasons despite a promising start. “After I hurt my shoulder, he called me to see how I was doing. That really reassured me not only how great of a coach but also how great of a person he was, also” the linebacker said.
Phil Wong, junior-tight end, “He started talking, and for whatever reason I thought that he was going to say it was his last year. When he said you have a long journey, that confirmed it in my mind,” said the tight end who at one point had a receiving touchdown in four consecutive games. “The room was dead silent and we were more surprised than anything else. I honestly expected our senior year [next season] to be his last season,” said Wong. “It’s because of Nielsen that I decided to attend PV over Bergen Catholic, and I’m happy I chose PV. What he’s done for me on and off the field that I’d never have learned without him,” said Wong. “He’s a no nonsense, old school guy that demands the most from his players, and he gets the most from his players
Colin Dedrick, senior-quarterback, “When I heard the news I was upset to hear that he’d be stepping away,” said Dedrick who then offered an interesting opinion. “Obviously all the guys and I are behind him with whatever decision he makes and I understand how hard of a decision it must have been for him considering he’s been doing this for all of his life,” he said. Dedrick then went on to offer some kind words for his long time coach, a sentiment that is shared by all. “I just think about what a wonderful coach, mentor, friend that he is and how much I enjoyed playing for him,” Dedrick said. He then talked about Nielsen’s humility, a characteristic that is on display from the moment the team is brought up, “The memory that stands out the most was after we lost to Ramapo this year we got back to our locker room and I said thank you for everything and we gave our goodbyes. He responded with ‘no thank you guys for everything you have done’. He never wanted it to be about him he always wanted it to be about the players,” Dedrick said.
These reactions and these feelings for the long time, oft successful coach are genuine and heartfelt.