ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Mike Gardner, assistant coach and defensive coordinator for the Tabor College Bluejays was selected as an AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year.
Gardner was one of 500 assistants chosen among 300,000 candidates nationwide.
“Winning this award is a very humbling experience,” Gardner said. “I know it’s because of all the great people that I’m surrounded by that I’ve been able to win this award.”
The criteria in the second annual AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year program is longevity, expertise, contributions to the school and community, and special achievements throughout their careers.
The selections were based on nominations made by head coaches, athletic administrators, past and current student-athletes, fans and board members themselves.
Gardner is in his third year at Tabor, and this marks the 13th season of his coaching career.
Other coaching stops include Hastings College, Bethel College and Lindenwood University.
Gardner has coached or recruited 10 All-Americans, 11 Academic All-Americans and four players who have played professionally.
Gardner was a three-time All-American at Baker University.
“I think one of the things that stands out is the fact that I work for an absolutely incredible head coach (Tim McCarty) that allows me to work independently,” Gardner said. “We have a great professional relationship and personal relationship and I’m blessed in the fact that I have an unbelievable group of kids that work their tails off for me defensively.”
Gardner said his association with Tabor College and McCarty in particular, has been a continuous learning experience.
“Under the guidance of Coach McCarty, I’ve learned relationship building, the importance of recruiting the right type of person into a program and how to keep a team together and retain the kids for four years,” he said. “I’ve also learned patience, persistence and organization.
“It’s been a blessing to stay here and be a part of something that’s special.”
“Mike does an outstanding job with our players,” McCarty said. “He is a great asset to our program. We are very fortunate to have him with us, and I’m very happy to see him get this fine award.”
“Assistant coaches are the unsung heroes of American sport,” said Joe Kuechenmeister, AFLAC senior vice president. “So many of us were positively affected by our participation in sports.”
AFLAC provides insurance for clients worldwide.
“Tabor College has given me the opportunity to be in the type of environment that allows me to be creative,” Gardner said. “It’s just been a great experience.”
Gardner and wife Julie have two sons, Ben and Brooks.