In 2000, I walked on the levee field as a freshman football player. After playing the last two years in junior high, I was looking to leave a good impression with the coaches and show my passion for the game.
Back then, the freshmen football team only practiced in the afternoon during two-a-days. Our head coach at the time, Phil Link, encouraged freshmen football players to show up to the morning practice if they wanted to. I did quite a few times and trust me — it wasn’t easy. We were known as “bumblebees” as we wore yellow pennies with maroon writing, while the varsity was the inverse.
Anyway, flash-forward to 2001. I was a sophomore that continued to work on his skills as a center. During this time, I became friends with one of the most genuine people I have ever met — Dan Prischmann. Prischmann, or Prisch as most players called him, was an assistant coach on the junior varsity team. When you first met Prisch two things stood out, his smile and twinkle in his eyes and his clamp-like grip. As a player, there wasn’t anyone you enjoyed talking to more about football and life.
During my JV playing days, I got to know Prisch. We both shared an immense knowledge and love of the game of football and saw the game from the same perspective. Recalling the story from earlier, Prisch mentioned that he liked my attitude and tenacity as he remembered me as a bumblebee during last season’s practice. I played both my sophomore and junior year on JV, all the while getting to know Prisch better.
I played offensive line my entire high school career, but during one JV game I mentioned to Prisch to give me an opportunity on the defensive line. Looking me in the eyes, Prisch sent me out there with a sense of trust that I could get the job done. The opposing team was on the 3-yard line and looking to score. It was third down and goal. The ball was snapped, I spun off the offensive guard and met the running back 3 yards in the backfield. I lifted him up by the back of his legs and put him down on the ground, while my friend Casey dove on top to add more to the tackle.
I was so excited about it and who do you think the first person to congratulate me was when I got to the sideline — Prisch.
My senior year, I was on varsity and only saw Prisch before practice and during game days.
Later in the year, I ran into Prisch while working out at the high school weight room. I had finished most of my lifts when a few friends and I decided to go shoot some hoops. Prisch came through the gym and began talking to us. In a friendly wager, Prisch challenged me to a basketball game to seven points, the only stipulation is that I couldn’t guard him behind the 3-point line. I lost 7-5.
Later in life, I began coaching football. I had several good and bad coaches throughout my life but the one that I tried to model myself after was Prisch. I tried to engage with the players like he did and bring the same sense of enthusiasm to every practice, scrimmage and game.
When the time came to build my resume for coaching jobs, Prisch was the first person I went to for a reference letter. It took less than a few hours before I received a long-written letter. Going through it, I never felt more appreciated as a coach, former player and friend. Prisch was very flattering in his compliments and pointed out things that I did above and beyond what was required. I never noticed them because I was putting forth the effort I thought was necessary.
Occasionally, I would run into him around town. It was usually at a gas station, a grocery store or the bowling alley. What would be a quick hello for most people turned into a half-hour long conversation that usually led to football. Whether I was in a hurry or not, I wanted to talk to Prisch.
These talks were always a confidence booster as he would talk about how he saw me coach and continued to follow how I was doing. It is nice to know that you have someone in your corner, someone that is rooting for you that isn’t a family member.
This past Monday, I was talking with the folks at the newspaper about him. I was bringing up some great moments that we had on the football field and a few of those random run-ins.
Prisch passed away unexpectantly Tuesday and from the bevy people that I have on social media and the abundance I know at the school, the loss was felt by many. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. Dan “Prisch” Prischmann will be missed.
Zach Stich is the managing editor of The Fergus Falls Daily Journal. His column appears Fridays.