WACO, Texas– The American Football Coaches Association is proud to announce its 2021 Assistant Coach of the Year winners. One assistant coach from the five divisions of college football has been selected for their dedication to their teams and communities. A total of 50 nominees from Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and NAIA were nominated in 2021.
Kansas Wesleyan’s Matt Myers has been selected as the NAIA Assistant Coach of the Year.
Each year, staff representatives from NCAA and NAIA football-playing schools are asked to nominate an assistant for consideration. From those nominations, the winners are selected by the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year Committee.
The Assistant Coach of the Year award was first presented in 1997 and was created to honor assistant coaches who excel in community service, commitment to the student-athlete, on-field coaching success and AFCA professional organization involvement.
“This is an incredible honor for an incredible person,” Kansas Wesleyan head coach Myers Hendrickson said. “Coach Myers has been a cornerstone of Coyote Football as an all-time great player and coach. He has excelled in multiple roles and positions on our staff. There’s no one more deserving of this honor than Matt Myers.”
The 2021 honorees are as follows:
FBS–Newland Isaac, Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs, Coastal Carolina University
FCS–Corey Hetherman, Defensive Coordinator/Associate Head Coach/Defensive Line, James Madison University
Division II–Mike Morita, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line, Virginia Union University
Division III–Paul Michalak, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers, Trinity University
NAIA–Matt Myers, Defensive Coordinator/Strength & Speed, Kansas Wesleyan University
“Once again, five outstanding assistant coaches have been selected for their dedication, not only to their teams, but to their communities,” said AFCA Executive Director Todd Berry. “Oftentimes, the head coach receives much of the credit for his team’s success, but any head coach is only as good as his assistants. Much of an assistant coach’s work is done behind the scenes. It is our pleasure to bring it to the forefront.”
The criterion for the award is not limited to on-field coaching ability or the success of the team and the players whom these assistant coaches work with. Service to the community through charitable work and other volunteer activities, participation in AFCA activities and events, participation in other professional organizations and impact on student-athletes are all considered in the selection process.
Winners of the Assistant Coach of the Year Award will receive a plaque to commemorate their recognition. They will be honored at the AFCA Honors Luncheon, held Monday, January 10, during the 2022 AFCA Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
The AFCA was founded in 1922 and currently has more than 11,000 members around the world, ranging from the high school level to the professional ranks. According to its constitution, the AFCA was formed, in part, to “maintain the highest possible standards in football and the coaching profession” and to “provide a forum for the discussion and study of all matters pertaining to football and coaching.”
Football Bowl Subdivision
Newland Isaac, Coastal Carolina: Isaac is in his 13th year as a college coach with the last four coming at Coastal Carolina … Has led the Chanticleers’ to the No. 7 scoring (40.4 ppg), No. 6 rushing (231.3 ypg) and No. 6 total offense (493.1 ypg) in the country in 2021 … Also coached three All-Sun Belt performers at running back … Leads a group of selected student-athletes who read, mentor, and discuss important life matters to children at a local elementary school … volunteers with FCA, Tim Tebow “Night to Shine” Prom, Caring for Kindergartners, Black History Month program, pumpkin drives, and Christmas events … selected the participate in the 2018 NCAA-NFL Coaches Academy.
Football Championship Subdivision
Corey Hetherman, James Madison: Hetherman is in his third season at JMU, with 15 years overall in college coaching … Has led the Dukes to the No. 2 ranked defense in the nation in 2021, allowing just 252.6 yards per game, also No. 9 in the country in scoring defense (15.45 ppg), No. 5 in rushing defense (79.7 ypg) and No. 10 in passing yards allowed (172.9) … Guided JMU to the No. 1 total defense in 2019 and No. 5 in the spring of 2021 … Selected to participate in the AFCA’s 35 Under 35 Coaches Leadership Institute in 2020.
Mike Morita, Virginia Union: Morita has been a college coach for 22 years, the last five at Virginia Union … Guided the Panthers’ offense to No. 3 in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in total offense at 362 yards per game, 4th in rushing offense (153.7 ypg) and third in passing (208.3 ypg) … Been a member of the AFCA for 20 years and is a member of the Minority Issues Committee … Works with members of the football team who are academically at-risk, helping them all raise their grade point averages from one semester to the next … Organizes and participates in field day activities at Miles Jones Elementary School … Participated in a Big Brother program at Westover Hills Elementary School, pairing student-athletes with elementary students … Assists Richmond Public Schools with moving food for school lunches … Volunteers with Home Team Foundation to work events such as Teachers Appreciation Week, Read-a-Thon, Lunch Buddy Program and Welcome Back to School Day.
Paul Michalak, Trinity (Texas): Michalak has spent 16 years coaching college football, with the last 13 at Trinity … The Tiger defense is ranked No. 2 in the nation in total defense (199.4 ypg), No. 9 in scoring defense (10.8 ppg), and No. 3 in passing yards allowed (119.1 ypg) in 2021 … Coached the Southern Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year in the 2021 spring season, and four other Defensive Player of the Year winners in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference … Dedicated AFCA member who serves on the Convention Services Committee … Coordinates the Trinity University Summer Bridge and Academic Success program, which has helped raise the football team GPA for five straight years … Counsels student-athletes on time management, communicating with professors and utilizing academic resources at Trinity … Volunteers with Still Water Sports Camps and reading programs at Lamar Elementary … Participates in career day fairs at Woodstone Elementary.
Matt Myers, Kansas Wesleyan: Myers is in his sixth season at Kansas Wesleyan, third as the defensive coordinator … Helped guide the Coyotes to an 11-2 record in 2021 and the 10th best defense in the country allowing just 291.5 yards of total offense per game … Also served as offensive coordinator and defensive line coach during his time at KWU … Dedicated member of the AFCA who attends clinics and conducts his own clinic talks with groups of coaches at the annual convention … Adopted a special needs individual who served as the honorary Director of Player Morale at KWU until his death in June 2021 … Directs the community service aspects of the football student-athletes for Kansas Wesleyan.
AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year Finalists for 2021
Football Bowl Subdivision
Sean Saturnio, Army West Point
Newland Isaac, Coastal Carolina
Matt Guerrieri, Duke
Football Championship Subdivision
Corey Hetherman, James Madison
Ryan Beard, Missouri St.
Will Kirkendall III, Morehead St.
Nate Shreffler, Hillsdale
Jordan Softcheck, Saint Anselm
Mike Morita, Virginia Union
Kevin Baumann, Franklin & Marshall
Kory David, Muhlenberg
Paul Michalak, Trinity (Tex.)
Matt Strzalkowski, Concordia (Mich.)
Jason Thier, Dickinson St.
Matt Myers, Kansas Wesleyan
Assistant Coach of the Year Notes
122 assistant coaches from 93 different schools have been honored by the AFCA since the inception of the award in 1997 … Morningside joins Bethel (Minn.), Campbellsville, Carson-Newman and Hampton as schools with three winners each … Kansas Wesleyan and Virginia Union joins Air Force, Benedictine (Kan.), Carroll (Mont.), Central (Iowa), Clemson, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Lindsey Wilson, Mount Union, Northwest Missouri State, Tabor, Wabash, Washington (Mo.) and Winona State with two winners each.