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Maryville College seems to have hauled in quite a catch when it hired former East Tennessee State and Science Hill receiver Mike Rader as a 31-year-old head coach in January of 2012.
Rader has led the Scots to shares of two USA South Athletic Conference titles, and they advanced to the playoffs this season after being picked fourth in the preseason poll. He was named conference coach of the year.
Maryville’s previous conference title came in the early 1930s when it was a member of the Smoky Mountain Conference with East Tennessee State. That’s back when ETSU was ETSC, nicknamed Teachers instead of Buccaneers and, oddly enough, coached by Maryville College graduate Gene McMurray.
A competitive, focused son of a coach, Rader isn’t one to instinctively reflect on accomplishments. But he’s aware of Maryville’s history, and encouraged to have added to it.
“It’s amazing what the good Lord can do,” Rader said. “I think about me even getting this job, and the staff that we were able to get and how every piece has kind of fallen into place. I am definitely not gonna take any credit for any of it. It was all a lot bigger than me. The coaches that we have, the kids that we have, the administration — this is not about me, by any means.”
Rader’s staff includes former ETSU teammate Scott Brumett (Maryville’s defensive coordinator), and defensive backs/special teams coordinator Paul Humphries, who was an assistant at ETSU when Rader played for Paul Hamilton.
“Everybody’s really skilled at what they do,” Rader said. “Scott definitely falls into that category. When we were at ETSU he played pretty much every linebacker position in the defense that we run. … He has done a fantastic job coordinating our defense and I’m excited to have him and … everybody else that we have.”
Rader’s father Mike coached high school basketball and football during a 32-year career. He attends most of Maryville’s home games.
The younger Rader played sports year round since he was a young child. He played basketball for George Pitts and baseball for Bob Dempsey and Bernie Young and football for Scott McClanahan at Science Hill. But his father never coached him — at least not on the field.
“My dad will come over and we still talk as coach and son,” Rader said. “We have a unique relationship. As far as I can remember — and we joked about it the other day — after pretty much every ballgame I played in or coached in … he always asked, ‘Do you want the good or the bad? Which one do you want first?’
“We used to watch ballgames and he’d quiz me on what I’d call here. … That’s just the way I grew up, so all that’s just kind of second nature.”
Rader came to Maryville from Huntingdon College (Montgomery, Ala.), where he’d been since June of 2004. He had a bittersweet homecoming on Nov. 16 when Huntingdon scored two touchdowns in the final 7:17 to deal Maryville its lone league loss, 45-38.
Maryville had secured a playoff berth the week before against Greensboro, and it proved to be a psychological hurdle.
“Going into the game, that was definitely a fear,” Rader said. “I was always fearful of, ‘Okay, the kids already know everything’s already there.’ And we went down there and we didn’t necessarily play with an edge, and that’s frustrating. You’re always trying to have your kids emotionally ready.”
And Huntingdon was sturdy resistance. It led NCAA Division III in offense.
“I want to say they’re still the No. 1 offense in the country,” Rader said. “I mean it was a very quality ballclub that we played.”
Huntingdon receivers coach Ben Fox is a former Daniel Boone quarterback, and was valedictorian at Boone in 2005. Fox, who joined Mike Turk’s program at Huntingdon the year Rader left, is impressed with Rader’s work at Maryville.
“They executed at a high level, and he did a phenomenal job getting those kids to play hard and play together,” Fox said. “You can tell that they worked hard in the offseason, and you could tell that they had some wrinkles and things they had done throughout the year that allowed them to be successful that were a direct reflect of coaching. … You can tell that they believe in what he’s doing. …
“They won the conference, they were nationally ranked and he was the conference coach of the year. So obviously, those things don’t happen by accident.”
Maryville lost its playoff game 42-34 at Hampden-Sydney
“It was a war all the way down to the very end,” Rader said. “We had our chances.”
Rader said it’s easy to learn about coaching in Maryville, where George Quarles coaches the powerhouse high school team and Gary Rankin coaches at nearby Alcoa.
“It’s been fun going over and watching their programs,” Rader said.
Hamilton’s ETSU program has produced some quality coaches, too. Rader mentioned being proud of his former teammate, ETSU quarterback Jamey Chadwell, who was named the Big South Coach of the Year after going 10-3 in his first season at Charleston Southern. The victories are a school record.
Rader is also proud of his alma mater for reviving its football program, and hiring Carl Torbush to lead it.
“It’s fantastic to have ETSU football back again,” Rader said, “and I know Coach Torbush is the right man for the job.”
Rader counts his blessings, including his mother and stepfather (Linda and David Crawford), who, like his father, helped teach him to respect others. He’s also thankful for his wife Lindsey, 8-month-old son Max and the twin sons that are due in some 10 weeks.
“My family is a huge influence on me and how I coach,” Rader said. “And more or less, coaching is no different than managing people. It’s a relationship business.”
And business is good for Rader.