Nate Milne started to think about coaching football after enjoying his own experience at Jamestown High School in Jamestown, New York. Milne explained that he was able to see the impact a coach could make after being a part of a high school football program headed by coaching legend Wally Huckno. “Football gave me confidence when I struggled in my first semester (in college).”
Milne is familiar with the sidelines of a gridiron, having either played or coached college football for 15 seasons, three of those being at Muhlenberg. But 2018 brings along an unfamiliar position he will serve on Scotty Wood Stadium’s sidelines. On Monday, Nov. 20, Nate Milne was named the head coach of the Muhlenberg football program after the position became vacant due to the unfortunate passing of previous head coach Mike “Duke” Donnelly.
“Muhlenberg is the right academic fit,” Milne said when explaining why he was interested to join the ‘Berg coaching staff as the offensive coordinator in 2015. He compared Muhlenberg’s principles and values to those of his alma mater, Hobart College. “There is a high caliber degree along with high caliber football.”
“There will be no chances to play calling responsibilities”
Milne explained that Coach Donnelly was also a major reason why Milne was interested in a coaching position at Muhlenberg following seven seasons as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at fellow Centennial Conference member Susquehanna University.
“Coach Donnelly has a ton of respect throughout the conference,” said Milne. “He was not only a player’s coach, but also a coach’s coach.”
Muhlenberg’s athletic staff was confident in Milne taking the reins of the football program.
“We did not post the position so there were no official applicants,” said Corey Goff, Athletic Director and former Acting Head Football Coach. “We received, but did not consider, dozens of inquiries about the position by phone and email.”
“The past four months have essentially served as an interview for Nate,” said Goff. This season, Goff not only worked with Milne in the athletics’ office, but Goff coached alongside Milne. “This afforded me the opportunity to observe Coach Milne interacting with student athletes, parents, alumni, opponents, coaches and other members of the Muhlenberg Community in a variety of situations and settings,” says Goff. “Overall, the experience was incredibly positive. As the end of the season approached our path became very clear, we did not need to look any further than Nate Milne to find the absolute best person to be our next head football coach.”
With all of the time the two spent interacting together, Goff saw enough to be convinced that Milne was the right fit for the position.
“Coach Milne has all the qualities we were looking for in our next head football coach,” said Goff. “He is passionate, energetic, fiercely competitive, intelligent and he has tremendous work ethic. Having worked in several other successful programs he is well equipped to initiate change that will enhance our program while respecting the legacy of success that has been Muhlenberg Football for the past 21 years.”
Milne thinks that the biggest change he will have to experience in his new role is delegation, which is something he said Coach Donnelly was fantastic at doing.
“As an offensive coordinator I was breaking down a lot of film and focusing on practice preparation, but now those responsibilities go to the assistants,” said Milne. “As a head coach, I need to give coaches a list of things needed to be practiced, and I give the final check.”
Goff continued to praise Milne, expressing the confidence he has in the new head coach to continue to lead Muhlenberg’s football program to future successes. Although the Mules achieved a 8-3 record along with an ECAC Football Fest bowl game win to cap the year, they missed out on the NCAA tournament and the Centennial-MAC Bowl Series. Looking back at the last season, Goff thinks Milne’s makeup will be realistic in evaluating what worked well enough to get the Mules into a postseason game, but what can improve to get the team to the premier playoff matchups.
“Coach Milne is willing to reflect critically on past practice yet he has great conviction toward his core philosophies. In other words, he is open-minded and willing to consider new ideas but stubborn enough to ensure he will not let the ship get off course at the first sign of troubled water,” said Goff.
For Muhlenberg football the shift will not be anything overwhelmingly which will help players. “Schemes are consistently evolving. They are a year to year process that revolves around the student athletes that we have,” explained Milne.
Often in college and professional programs, a new head coach can mean mass changes, sometimes resulting in every assistant coach being replaced to fit the likings of the new head coach. Milne brings along no such demands as there will be no chances to play calling responsibilities. That means Milne calling offensive plays, Kory David (who served in 2017 as interim defensive coordinator and will be promoted to full-time defensive coordinator for the 2018 season) calling the defensive sets, and Josh Carter calling the special teams plays.
Coach Milne has all the qualities we were looking for in our next head football coach. – Corey Goff, Director of Athletics
Goff also sees positives about Milne looking to continue tradition rather than refurbish the already successful program.
“Nate wants to continue a positive culture where our coaches work very hard,” Goff said. “His vision is one where we do the right things in pursuit of excellence. Sounds like a formula for success to me”.
Ultimately, Goff believes that this story can come full circle, and that Milne can do for Mules what Milne’s coaches once did for him.
“Nate is a tremendous role model for our student athletes and coaches,” said Goff. “He works very hard but has a lot of fun and his family is at the core of who he is.”