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Gwinn football gets back to work, hoping to make coach Dion Brown proud

Gwinn football team, 2019
Gwinn football team, 2019(Tyler Markle)
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 6:18 PM EDT
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GWINN, Mich. (WLUC) -

High school football practices started Monday across Michigan, and one team, eager to get going is the Gwinn Modeltowners. After the tragic death of head coach Dion Brown earlier this year, the team is moving on, while trying their best to honor his legacy.

The first week of football training is a little different for the Gwinn Modeltowners this year. Normally, players would be running drills with coach Dion’s loud, but always excited voice carrying across the field.

“It’s a different feel, it’s a different start,” said Gwinn head coach Ben Olsen. “This was coach Brown’s Christmas when that first day of practice rolled around.”

This year, head coach Ben Olsen leads the team, shouting commands from behind a mask.

In the past, Olsen served as an assistant on the team. This season in charge, he hopes to make his friend proud.

“He put everything into this community and into this football team,” said Olsen. “We’re going to try to do the same thing for him, honor that and if we can get some wins and get into the playoffs and get a home playoff game and maybe get a playoff victory this year, I think that’ll go a long way in cementing coach Brown’s legacy.”

Coach Dion had already built an amazing legacy in Gwinn, taking a Modeltowners team from two decades of obscurity to two playoff appearances in his six years as head coach.

As part of changing the culture in Gwinn, Dion became close with many of his players.

“He was just like a dad,” said middle linebacker Carl Peterson. “He was always there trying to help you out even if it’s not on the football field. He was just always there for us.”

Many of those players are still around. The Modeltowners returned a large senior class, and after an offseason full of weight training and conditioning, they feel like they're ready to put the conference on notice.

"I think we're ahead of the game. this is one of the few times I feel like you could say a Gwinn team is ahead of the game, but I really do feel like we're ahead of a lot of teams when it comes to conditioning, working out, and then where we are as far as a football team goes," said Olsen.

Following COVID-19 restrictions, the team is doing light drills this week before adding pads and hitting next Monday. They hope the pandemic doesn't put a damper on their season; a season they plan to make special for their former coach.

“We’re really trying to give coach Brown the season that he wanted last year,” said wide receiver David Duvall. “We’re going to do everything we can, and do everything we can to make that happen for him this year.”

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