JANESVILLE Ben McCormick wants to hit the ground running.
The Janesville School District named the 33-year-old McCormick as Craig High School’s new head football coach on Friday. He was an assistant coach under retiring Bill O’Leary for the past two seasons.
O’Leary announced his retirement in January after nine seasons as Craig’s head coach. He led the Cougars to a 5-5 record last season, including the school’s seventh straight WIAA playoff appearance.
As for O’Leary’s successor, McCormick has a basic plan.
“I believe in running the football,” McCormick said. “It’s a cold-weather state. It’s nice to run, and throw the ball when we need to.’’
A 1997 University of Wisconsin graduate, McCormick was a Badger reserve quarterback through a five-year career. He received a master’s degree in education from St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn.
McCormick was an assistant varsity football coach at Rosemount (Minn.) High School for nine seasons before coming to Craig, where he teaches biology.
“At Rosemount, I learned a great deal from Jeff Erdmann, the head coach,” McCormick said. “When he took over the program, we won 1-2 games, and he turned it around.’’
Rosemount made two trips to the Minnesota state semifinals, earned two sectional championships and a conference title during McCormick’s tenure.
A standout quarterback at Columbus High School under coach John Titus, McCormick passed for more than 2,300 yards his senior year. He was team MVP in football, basketball and baseball and a National Honor Society member.
McCormick was an all-state quarterback selection and the Wisconsin State Journal’s Player of the Year his senior year.
After breaking his femur in a car accident, McCormick lost scholarship offers.
“There were immediate withdrawals,” McCormick said of the scholarships. “I could understand it.’’
McCormick became a UW walk-on in 1993.
“UW was just down the road, and I was excited to walk on,” McCormick said. “I got to be part of the 1993 Rose Bowl team, which was quite a highlight. “I was a five-year guy. I had two years as a walk-on, and the third year I was a full scholarship athlete.
In his tenure at UW, McCormick was fourth-, third- and second-string quarterback.
“I didn’t play,” McCormick said. “But it was a great experience and I made a lot of strong relationships.’’
Influenced by UW’s traditional running game, McCormick hopes to develop strong linemen at Craig, starting in the weight room.
“That’s a big part of it,” McCormick said of producing strong linemen. “It’s a cliché, but good offensive lines win and lose championships.’’
McCormick will have plenty to do in the coming weeks, from meeting his prospective players to selecting a new coaching staff.
“I’ll have a team meeting and outline some of the expectations,” he said.
McCormick will stress the importance of hitting the weight room.
“That is of major, major importance,” McCormick said. “The off-season has started already. The kids have to ask themselves, ‘What have I done to get better. ’’
McCormick will draft letters to prospective staff. So far, none of last season’s asistants have indicated plans for next fall, McCormick said.
“I will send letters to coaches that have been in the program,” McCormick said. “I sense there will be some changes from the previous staff, but I’m not sure about that.’’
McCormick said he will be aggressive with introducing his football philosophy.
“I am more of a ‘here it is everything guy,’’’ McCormick said. “You want to do what you do, and do it well.”
McCormick is married to Keri, and they have three children.