The family that plays together ...
By Kathryn Wood '02 and Nick Dawson, Sports Editor
The offensive coordinator, who has spent countless hours studying game film on the opponent, assesses the situation on the field and decides on the next play. From the coaching booth he calls the play into the headphones and down to the sideline.
Three generations of PLU football -- and of Westerings. From left, Scott Westering, his nephew Chad Johnson, and Scott's father and Chad's grandfather, PLU head coach Frosty Westering.
There, the head coach, the offensive coordinator's father, hears the play selection. Sometimes there is discussion, more often not. The play is then signaled to the quarterback, the offensive coordinator's nephew and the head coach's grandson. And with a clap, the Lutes break the huddle.
This scenario is repeated approximately 70 times each game for nine Saturdays or more during the Pacific Lutheran football season.
Most college football fans in the Northwest -- and many across the country -- know the head coach as Frosty Westering, now in his 28th season at Pacific Lutheran. A good many more of those fans know that the offensive coordinator is Scott Westering '82, the second of Frosty's two sons, who played for his dad from 1978 to 1980. And a growing number of those fans are being made aware that the quarterback is Chad Johnson '01, the oldest son of Holly Johnson, one of Frosty's three daughters.
When Frosty Westering made the move to Pacific Lutheran in 1972 to revive the football program, few could have imagined that 28 years later, three generations of the Westering family would play pivotal roles in the Lutes' drive toward a second straight NCAA Division III national playoff berth.
Frosty had himself been a college player at Northwestern and at Nebraska-Omaha. He spent several years in the U.S. Marine Corps before settling into the teaching and coaching profession. His experiences gave him a choice to be the kind of coach who yells and berates, or the kind who uses encouragement and affirmation, mixed in with the occasional "tough love." He chose the latter, and he uses that philosophy with great results today at Pacific Lutheran.
After successful coaching stops at Parsons College (Iowa) and Lea College (Minnesota), Westering packed his wife, five children and belongings into a U-Haul and the family station wagon and headed west to Parkland. "It took us five days," remembers Westering. "We stopped at every campground and we really enjoyed the trip."
Employing his upbeat philosophy, which differed from most in the college ranks, Frosty led his first Pacific Lutheran team to a 6-3 record. Each of the 27 teams since then has finished on the positive side of the ledger.
Scott played on three of those teams, eventually serving as an All-American and captain on the 1980 squad that beat Wilmington (Ohio) to garner Frosty's, and PLU's, first NAIA national championship. Scott had spent his first collegiate season at UCLA, but decided to "come home" to his father's program. He was drawn back to a program that places high value on students' spiritual, mental, emotional, social and athletic development.
After tryouts with the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League, Scott settled in on the coaching staff at PLU in 1981. Three years later, Frosty appointed him offensive coordinator. Frosty says he has enjoyed working with his son in this capacity. "It's been great to see him grow as a coach and as a man."
While Frosty and Scott helped lead six more Lute football teams to national championship game appearances, a youngster worked the sideline as a ball boy. During halftime breaks, that same boy would fling left-handed passes to his younger brother, Jason, and others on the vacant Sparks Stadium turf. In 1996, after an all-conference season at Rogers High School in Puyallup, Wash., Chad Johnson came to PLU to get an education and play for his grandfather and uncle.
"He was a ball boy for the team when he was little," says Frosty. "He's always wanted to be part of PLU football. It was a good fit for him."
"I've been around the program since before I could walk," says Chad, a junior who maintains a 3.56 grade point average while majoring in business administration. "We started coming to games here in the '70s when [Uncle] Brad ['80] and Scott were playing. It's neat to be in the inner circle. I thought I knew what this program was about, but I didn't really learn it until I lived this stuff out."
Under Scott's tutelage, Chad has grown into a twice all-conference quarterback and league MVP. Even more importantly, his interaction with Frosty and Scott has taught him a lot about life. "Without them I wouldn't be here," says Chad. "What they believe in and their faith in God have had a big influence on who I am. They have molded the player that I am and the person that I am."
The spiritual dimension of the program, what Frosty calls "total release," helps players focus more on being "their best selves and not on beating an opponent." One of Frosty's motivational tools states that opponents "come to beat us, but we come to be us."
"I let Him [Christ] play through my athletic performances," says Chad. "I just let go of it all, and I play with more peace and joy."
Chad and Scott have a close relationship, both on and off the field. Prior to kickoff, the two pray together, not to win the game but to enjoy the competitive experience and to perform to their potential. During games, Scott keeps in contact with Chad when the Lute defense is on the field. Chad, for his part, has been around the program long enough that he is able to point out intricacies that even Scott and Frosty haven't seen. The relationship has benefited Pacific Lutheran in the win-loss column.
There is a strong bond among all three generations of Westerings, and the coach-player relationship adds "a unique dynamic in our family," says Scott. "Chad is a special of young man," says Frosty. "It's a pleasure to coach him and see him mature as a quarterback and a person.
"His leadership is strong in a natural way," says Frosty. "We couldn't ask for anything better."
The Westering family's involvement doesn't end with this trio. Go to any Lute football game, whether at home or on the road, and you're bound to hear -- from anywhere on the field -- the boisterous cheers of Frosty's wife, Donna, and daughters Sue '77 and Holly. Jim Johnson, Holly's husband, and Susan Westering '80, Scott's wife, don't miss a game, while Brad Westering and Stacy Spani, the other Westering children, support the team from out of town.
"In our family there is great love for each other and of the Lord," says Frosty. "We care for and respect each other."
It's a philosophy that has brought the Westering family, and PLU many successful years of exciting 'Big Play' football.
As Frosty always says, "We make the 'Big Time' where we are.