KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The idea started in the off-season, during a conversation between madcap coach and well-known motivator P.J. Fleck, and American film star Sylvester Stallone.
Fleck, already on the map for his unconventional but effective tactics on and off the field, hatched an idea he had to wait almost six months to deploy.
So Saturday, he stepped onto the practice field looking more like a player than a coach, donning full pads and a helmet. The attire came with a challenge, and the challenge came with a caveat: stop Fleck on the goal line, and the team gets to hit the locker room early. The catch: Fleck gets to pick the player opposite him on the line of scrimmage.
Captured on video, Fleck chooses – seemingly at random – red shirt sophomore linebacker Kasey Carson, also a walk-on. Carson won the drill and a night off for his teammates.
Then, the real fun started, as Fleck directed his player’s attention to the big screen at Waldo Stadium where they were greeted by Stallone himself alongside WMU alum and football booster Alec Gores.
“We looked at the big screen,” said Carson, “and there were two of America’s greats up there. It was crazy.”
But Stallone was there for a purpose, and even though he still wasn’t aware, it centered on Carson.
“The fact that you’re a walk on and have accomplished this is extraordinary,” said Stallone to Carson in the video. “You have gotten a full ride scholarship my man.”
For Carson, it was affirmation of years of hard work. For Fleck and the rest of the Broncos – it was a deserving reward, not to mention, an obvious one.
“There’s not a tougher kid on this football team,” said Fleck. “There’s no one more deserving. He is a perfect fitting description of what ‘Row the Boat’ and Western Michigan’s all about.”
Carson, as usual according to his teammates, was only focused on the team.
“I thought it was really cool,” said Carson, “because as soon as I saw him on the board I knew our program was going to get a lot of attention, and that’s what our program needs.”
“Whether I’m third string, whether I’m scout team, whether I’m starting - it doesn’t matter what my role is as long as the team’s benefiting from me and we’re getting better on the field and off the field.”