Following in the footsteps of a legend is difficult, especially if that legend is your father.
For the head football coach at Pacific Lutheran University, Scott Westering, this is especially true. He walks in the path left by his father, Forrest “Frosty” Westering, who revolutionized the PLU football program during his 31-year career in Tacoma.
The PLU football program is different than most football programs around the country in that it focuses on shaping players into courageous men who always give it their best shot.
The PLU football coaching staff is not as concerned about what players do on the field. After all, it’s about enjoying the trip and making lasting memories.
In contrast, most coaching staffs at major Division I football programs instill a sense of fear and intimidation in order to force players to excel on the field. That method can only work to a certain point, and then players will quit out of frustration.
At PLU, Frosty Westering did the exact opposite.
“Dad [Frosty] never went down that road of intimidation and really made the decision that he is going to motivate through treating young men with love,” Scott Westering said.
“It’s about getting guys to not be afraid to fail and getting guys to feel good about themselves in a positive culture and environment. If you do that, then you get guys to overachieve.”
Players certainly overachieved during Frosty’s time at PLU. Before Frosty Westering retired in 2003, he won four national championships and competed in eight.
Scott Westering served as the offensive coordinator under Frosty Westering in 1999, when PLU won the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl game against heavily-favored Rowan University of New Jersey, 42-13.
Their unique 1999 national championship run involved traveling nearly 16,000 miles to play five games on the road. The 1999 PLU football team was undersized and didn’t have any superstars, but the team members played to their full potential and surprised the entire nation.
When Frosty Westering passed away in April, he had influenced many people nationwide. People’s hearts had been touched and would never be the same. Frosty Westering had a lasting impact on nearly everyone he met.
One person who was deeply affected by Frosty’s unique style of coaching was former PLU running back, Jud Keim.
Keim now serves on the PLU football coaching staff with Scott Westering and coaches the running backs, in addition to supervising special teams. Keim played for Frosty Westering from 1982-1986 and was a two-time all-conference running back.
“There’s probably nobody that’s had more impact on me and my life, certainly in my playing days, than Frosty,” Keim said. “[Frosty’s] stories have filtered every decision I’ve ever made. Anything and everything in my life has been by him [Frosty].”
A Season Dedicated to Frosty
Scott Westering decided to commemorate this season to his father because of what Frosty Westering stood for. Frosty Westering embodied a legendary persona, similar to what Vince Lombardi did for football or what John Wooden did for basketball. The theme for this year is ‘The Legacy Lives on in you.”
“It was awesome how the captains embraced the idea of having the legacy live on in us,” Scott Westering said. “We stand on the shoulders of teams that came before us in the seventies, eighties and nineties. I have gotten these guys to understand that they’re really a part of something special. They’re not just playing football. They’re involved with something that has a tradition.”
In addition to all of the national championships Frosty Westering garnered, he also won the prestigious Amos Alonzo Stagg Award. The recipients of this award are all the who’s who of college football.
In 1983, Paul “Bear” Bryant of Alabama won the award. Penn State’s renowned coach, Joe Paterno, won the award in 2002. Frosty Westering’s status is unheralded, but he never cared about all the hardware. That was just a bonus.
“Most things in a competitive arena are based off of how many wins, rings, watches, plaques and banners you have,” Keim said. “That would be the last thing Frosty would talk about though.”
One of Frosty Westering’s more powerful sayings was to make the “Big Time” where a player was in life. This doesn’t focus on what a person has and doesn’t have as a player, but instead concentrates on what that person does have and what that person could do with that potential.
“We all think the grass is greener somewhere else, but it’s not about resources,” Keim said. “It’s about what you do with them. Most people focus on what they don’t have and what they wished they had, or comparing to what others have. Making the ‘Big Time’ is learning to get it done with what you do have. Be the best you can be in all things.”
Carrying on the Legacy
When Scott Westering interviewed for the head coaching job at PLU in 2003, he knew he was pulling the double cardinal sin. He was following a legend, which most are told to never do, and the legend was his father.
“My dad built the mansion. I’m just ready to move into it,” Scott Westering said. “I’m going to move into the master bedroom. Some of the rooms, so to speak, we left untouched. Other rooms, we’ve painted the wallpaper and changed some things around. I love my father and I’ve honored him every opportunity I can. I was humbled and honored that PLU gave me the baton from my dad and to continue to run with it.”
Scott Westering’s work has resembled his father’s success in his 10th year as the head coach of PLU football. The Lutes are 7-1 this season with one game left in the regular season. They could be on the brink of a playoff berth.
After being ranked 13th in the preseason http://d3football.com national poll, the 2013 the Lute football team has lived up to the lofty expectations presented before them. Frosty Westering would be proud of the team’s extraordinary accomplishments, but would stress the importance of enjoying the trip.
To Frosty Westering, it’s not all about winning and losing games. It goes beyond that. It’s about making the “Big Time” and enjoying teammates’ company. It’s about serving each other and going above and beyond the call of duty.
Sure, a team can go undefeated and win the national championship, but a concern of Frosty’s would be making sure the team is relishing the process. Players only have four years to appreciate every prayer before a game, every practice, every snap and every team meeting.
One Lute football player who has been uniquely affected by Frosty Westering is his grandson, Kellen Westering. Kellen Westering is a wide receiver on the PLU football team. He dedicates his life to Frosty Westering, who helped create a friendly environment for Kellen Westering to grow up in.
“[Frosty] has always been someone who makes the other person feel more important than him,” Kellen Westering said. “On his death bed, it was never about him. He was still talking to me and caring about me. He was an unbelievable man.”
No one can play football for their entire life, so that’s why Frosty Westering stressed the notion that it is important to live in the moment. Frosty Westering’s personality was bigger than life itself and his philosophy on life was unlike any other.
To officially commemorate Frosty Westering this year, a silhouette of the legendary coach giving his usual thumbs-up sign is embroidered on every Lute football player’s jersey.
Junior Joel Teats, a linebacker on the 2013 PLU football team, said he appreciates the patch and is content with this season being dedicated to Frosty Westering.
“We touch the patch to remind us what he [Frosty] started through his philosophy of ‘Every Man A Lute.’ It [the patch] definitely gives us some extra motivation to play the games in honor of his legacy,” Teats said.
PLU Changed Forever
In 1972, Pacific Lutheran University hired Frosty Westering. Everything would change that year for the Lutes, and the football team would never look back. They would never look back because every player’s life would be altered from that moment on in a significantly positive manner.
The nation came to know Frosty Westering as the ninth-winningest coach in the history of college football, but many people considered him a saving grace.
“I saw young men become giants playing for him [Frosty]. These players not only became giants as players and but also as young men,” Scott Westering said. “He liked to point guys in the right direction when they’re away from home for the first time.”
The Frosty Westering era lives on in Scott Westering, who is continuing to walk on the path of selflessness. Whether Scott Westering leads a PLU team to a national championship in the next few years is beside the point.
The two concepts that truly matter are enjoying the trip and making the “Big Time” where you are, according to Scott and Frosty Westering. It’s all about the process of becoming uncommon, something Frosty preached about while revolutionizing the PLU football program.
Every Saturday this season, players commemorated Frosty Westering by taping a picture of him up in the locker room. As every player passed by the image, there’s a distinct whisper.
“Attaway, Frosty. Attaway.”