During three seasons as an assistant football coach at two universities, Myers Hendrickson never lost the desire to return to Salina and Kansas Wesleyan.
Hendrickson spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons as a graduate assistant coach under Matt Drinkall at KWU, helping the Coyotes advance to the NAIA Championship in 2015.
When Drinkall resigned earlier this month after five seasons to accept a position at Army West Point, Hendrickson knew the timing was right to return. The university’s administration agreed.
Hendrickson has been chosen to replace Drinkall at the Coyotes’ helm, becoming the 20th coach in the history of the program.
“Since the day I got on campus I knew that was a place I wanted to be,” Hendrickson said. “The decision had already been made that if there was a possibility to lead this program, I want that opportunity. The great place that Salina and Kansas Wesleyan is, it was always going to be a dream to come back as head coach.”
Hendrickson was quarterbacks/wide receivers coach during Drinkall’s first season at Wesleyan and was promoted to offensive coordinator, along with his other duties, in 2015. The Coyotes won a school-record 10 games that year and advanced to the NAIA playoffs for the first time since 2002, losing to defending champion Southern Oregon in the first round in a game in Ashland, Ore.
KWU ranked fifth in total offense and passing offense per game, and was seventh in scoring that season.
Hendrickson spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons as offensive coordinator Division III Coe College (Iowa), and was offensive coordinator at Division II Northern State (S.D.) this fall, employing Drinkall’s offense each season.
Hendrickson inherits a KWU team that’s coming off an unprecedented and historic season. The Coyotes won a school- and Kansas Conference-best 13 games (13-1), won the KCAC with an 11-0 record, and became the first conference team to advance to the NAIA playoff semifinals. The team also sets numerous school, KCAC and NAIA team and individual records.
“We had great interest in this position, as you would imagine, but Myers Hendrickson stood out from the group from the very beginning,” Wesleyan Director of Athletics Mike Hermann said. “Since his father (Mark) is a former college football head coach, his preparation for this head football coach role spans many years.
“As I spoke with coaches at his previous stops, each one sung his praises and was sad to see him move on. Of course, I knew what an outstanding job he did when he was on campus as a member of coach Drinkall’s original staff. More importantly, I learned how good of a person he is. His character, faith, intelligence, leadership and coaching ability were all visible while he was an assistant.”
Hendrickson said returning to Salina is a homecoming.
“My wife Hannah being from here, graduating from high school here and having her parents here, getting engaged here in town, getting married here in town, back here for the holidays and myself having a degree from Kansas Wesleyan … Salina has become home for me,” he said. “I’m a Coyote.”
Hendrickson expressed his appreciation for the support and backing of Wesleyan’s administration.
“First I’d just like to say thank you to (President Matt) Thompson and Mr. Hermann for this opportunity,” he said. “The first thing that came to mind during the interview process was just how much pride I have in Kansas Wesleyan.
“Coming back on campus and seeing people and meeting with people, it just really opened my eyes even more how special it is. That process showed me this is the place I want to be.”
Thompson is equally pleased.
“We are deeply proud to welcome home one of our own,” he said. “There is something extremely special to invite a Coyote back to lead the football program into its next chapter.
“Myers Hendrickson has had incredible professional experiences that have prepared him to be the Kansas Wesleyan head football coach. I am extremely impressed with coach Hendrickson’s leadership and intellect, commitment to the student development, understanding of our culture, spiritual devotion, and athletic acumen.
“I hope the entire Coyote Nation will join me in welcoming and congratulating coach Hendrickson as he assumes this new role. We all look forward to what he will accomplish on behalf of his alma mater.”
Hendrickson’s close relationship with Drinkall began long before their time in Salina. Drinkall was in Hendrickson’s wedding and they’ve remained in constant contact the past three seasons.
“Myers Hendrickson is the perfect fit to be the new head coach of Coyote football,” said Drinkall, who compiled a 42-17 record at KWU. “Coach Hendrickson is one of the brightest coaches in all of college football.
“Not only will he do an amazing job on the field, but his commitment to academic excellence and desire to build relationships with the community and alumni will help take the football program to new heights. I am so happy for him and all of Coyote Nation.”
“Coach Drinkall has had an enormous impact on me and I’ve known him for a very long time,” Hendrickson said. “Having an opportunity to be part of his original staff really shaped my life, both personally and professionally.
“He’s served as an outstanding mentor for me. Even though I had coaching experiences before Kansas Wesleyan and after Kansas Wesleyan, I look back on my time here as some of the best years of my career and my personal life. I enjoyed working with him and all the things he taught me.”
While at KWU, Hendrickson worked with interim coach and defensive coordinator John Michaletti, and he coached current assistants Matt Myers and Kre’tien Webb as players.”I talked to those guys on a regular basis and every time I come back and getting to see those guys and celebrate their success with them was a lot of fun,” he said.
Hendrickson’s two offenses at Coe were wildly successful. The Kohawks were 15-7 overall and won the 2016 Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship and before advancing to the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The 2016 offense ranked 15th in the nation in rushing offense with 253.7 yards per game, 26th in the nation in total offense at 473.6 yards and 23rd in red zone offense, scoring 86.8 percent of the time. Running back Trevor Heitland led Division III in all-purpose yards with 223.2 per game and rushing with 1,913 yards.
Northern State averaged 278 yards passing last fall – a 76-yard improvement from 2017.
Hendrickson began his career as Defensive Quality Control coach at Auburn in 2012. He coached running backs at Holmes Community College (Miss.) in 2013, before joining Drinkall at KWU in 2014.
Hendrickson played wide receiver for one season at Cornell before transferring to Western Illinois, where he was a wide receiver and returned punts for the Leathernecks for three seasons (2009-11).
“I’m confident he’ll do a great job with the transition into this new role, and I believe he’ll be a successful coach for many years to come here,” Hermann said.