When Will Finley took over as head coach of the Waldorf University football team, he doubled down on his commitment to winning with players in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. This trend was started by his predecessor, Josh Littrell. And as signing day approaches again, Waldorf is poised to bring in the future local athletes who are expected to take the program to new heights.
There was no way to rubber him when Littrell took over ahead of the 2017-18 season; the program was in shambles. From 2007 to 2013, the program went 10–66, winning no more than two games in three of those seasons and winning just one game in the other four. The 2009-10 team went 1-10, beating only Trinity International University, which finished the season 0-11. This Waldorf team consisted of only 53 players, and only nine of them were Iowans. Two were former local preparers, Alex Grunhovd from Forest City and Eric Janssen from Belmond.
Compare that to the past five years. Waldorf has no losing seasons, and both coaches have compiled an overall record of 33-17. Last year, of the approximately 100 players registered, 38 of them came from Iowa alone, not even counting the players from southern Minnesota. Those 38 Iowans included 11 players who attended KIOW cover schools.
So, has Waldorf found the secret sauce? It’s a win-win situation for Waldorf and local high school athletes. Waldorf does best when recruiting northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. These athletes have the chance to become stars close to home with their friends and family in the stands and throw tailgate parties. The parties will begin approximately three hours before kick-off and continue for hours after games at Bolstoff Field. The video below shows a home game last season when the Warriors came to the stadium, fans do it for every home game and the team named it the Warrior Walk.
Fans line up to salute the team as they head to the locker room to prepare for that day’s battle. With the grills heating up for lunch and the cold ones on ice, it’s an experience you won’t get many other places on game day in Forest City.
Now that you think home games are awesome, wait until you see the purple and black road trip. The images here represent just one road game from last season. Waldorf nearly doubled the number of home fans, including taking over one of the parking lots for their tailgate parties.
Not known to be done by many other NAIA schools, the Waldorf Football Team showcases its players, coaches, and successes with a weekly one-hour radio show during the season. The Zarren Egesdal-hosted show features Waldorf head coach Will Finley talking about the previous week’s game and looking ahead to the game ahead. Last week’s offensive and defensive MVPs also join the show to offer their thoughts, and Zarren Egesdal highlights their paths to Waldorf.
Now, it would be naive not to mention that Waldorf must continue to recruit from other states and bring players to Forest City. They have had many success stories with out-of-state players, including former Hilton quarterback Bo Joseph, who became a two-time NAIA All-American at Waldorf in Miami, Florida. But Waldorf’s first-ever NAIA First Team All-American was an under-recruited six-foot-six kicker from West Burlington, Iowa. Slater Gifford worked his way into the first team in 2020.
Waldorf is set to unveil its next generation of rookies on February 3 live on KIOW radio during Signing Day Social. The social will air live at 7:00 p.m. on the 107.3 FM mix and can be watched live at the Paddlers Tap located in downtown Forest City – something you won’t find at other NAIA schools.