Hendrickson is upbeat to the end

Tom Loftus sports editor

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Every Saturday this fall, Mark Hendrickson has faced the media with a smile on his face, a positive tone in his voice, and an unshaking belief in the young football players he coaches at Western Illinois.

“Caulton Ray is fine young man,” Hendrickson would inevitably say. “Kevin Palermo, No. 45, our senior linebacker, one of our team captains, played another fine game for us on defense, as did No. 18, senior defensive back Tim Franken, who has played on the same team with Kevin since high school.”

Every Monday afternoon, Hendrickson has granted the Courier an interview to discuss the Leathernecks’ upcoming opponent, rehash the previous Saturday’s highs and lows, and offer his insights about football, his team, and sometimes about life itself.

Through it all, and despite his club dropping from 8-5 last year to 2-8 this fall, entering Saturday’s 1 p.m. season finale at Hanson Field against No. 5 North Dakota State (9-1), the veteran football coach has maintained his sense of humor, his sense of dignity, and his sense that things will only get better.

“The definition of winning is becoming the best person that you can become,” Hendrickson said recently. “We want our players to graduate from here, on the way to becoming – learning how to grow and become – the best persons that they can as the years go on.

“Probably the most bottom-line goal is (that) we want these young men to learn: Do everything to the best of your ability,” continued Hendrickson, the runner-up last fall for the Eddie Robinson Award, given to the top coach in the Football Championship Subdivision. “If it’s worth doing – whether it’s an assignment in class, or a football game – it’s worth doing the right way. Give everything the best you’ve got, and simply do what you’re supposed to do.

“And when you’re part of a family – your family back home, or the Leatherneck football family – you’re accountable to others, you’re responsible to others, and therefore, do your share of the workload. Do what you’re supposed to do.”

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