Putting It All On The Line

Posted on Oct 1, 2009 :: Down Time
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Mike Verstegen

Pads pop hard on the practice field behind Kimberly High School under a cloudless blue sky on an unseasonably warm September afternoon. It’s hard to tell if Head Coach Steve Jorgensen and his assistants are working the Papermakers players any harder than usual. Maybe it’s always this intense for one of the most successful high school programs in the state. But there’s an undercurrent suggesting that everyone on the field is aware that Kimberly has just lost its first game in more than two years – a run of 29 games that included two state championships.

At one corner of the field, assistant coach Mike Verstegen is drilling the offensive linemen, pairing them in one-on-ones against defensive linemen.

“You have to come off the football harder,” Verstegen shouts when one of his linemen gets pushed back. “You have to beat him to the punch.”

The drills continue at a furious pace, pads popping against pads, the linemen grunt and push, legs churning.

“Here we go, here we go,” Verstegen shouts. “Work, work, work! Stay under control. Keep your feet moving. Know where your help is coming from.”

During team drills, Verstegen positions himself in the backfield to observe. A defensive lineman penetrates the line and stops a play dead in its tracks. Verstegen claps his hands and jerks his body away in frustration.

It’s not all frustration. “Good, good, good,” he shouts after another play when his linemen open a hole for the back, clapping again, this time in approval. “Good speed on that.”

He can identify with the young guys on the field. Fifteen years ago, Verstegen was in their cleats, a star lineman for the Papermakers, destined for an All-Big 10 college career for the Wisconsin Badgers. He followed that by playing in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints, who selected him in the third round of the 1995 draft, and later with the St. Louis Rams.

Verstegen started several games for the Saints, but when injuries shortened his pro career in 2000, he was ready for the next chapter. Verstegen used his UW business management degree to begin work as an investment advisor. Today, he and fellow Badger alum Matt Vanden Boom team up to provide investment advice through LPL Financial Services at Lakeview, Evergreen and Prospera Credit Unions.

He also immersed himself in the community. A husband and father of three, Verstegen serves on the board of the Heart of the Valley YMCA and the Kimberly Board of Education. Coaching was never part of his career plan. Nonetheless, five years ago Verstegen decided to go back to Kimberly High School as an assistant coach. It’s a decision he hasn’t regretted.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get into coaching at the high school or the college level,” says Verstegen. “There’s such a huge time commitment, I didn’t think I’d be able to do that and still have a financial career. Fortunately, the job I have allows me the flexibility to coach.”

Verstegen says he’s happy in his day job, but his part-time work coaching the Papermakers is something special.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it in the end,” says Verstegen. “There’s just a lot of satisfaction helping these kids out. I always tell kids to find a passion and pursue it. Some guys like to golf, some like to hunt. This is my passion; this is what I enjoy doing in my spare time. I love being around the kids. I love the game and what it teaches you about life lessons.”