SPORTSBEAT by Peter Jakey
This week, I feel compelled to use this space on the sports page to remember former teacher and coach Dave Mix, who left us Jan. 21. He was 75.
He was a respected English teacher for Rogers City Area Schools from 1971 to 1984, but was a football coach and assistant coach on and off throughout his career, and even as late as the 1991-1992 season.
He also helped out in Posen when the football program was experiencing its greatest success in the early 2000s.
Success a good word to associate with Mix, because it followed him wherever he went. He helped many football teams become better, but never sought notoriety or the glory.
According to his close Rogers City friend, Joe Veselenak, Mix was quite the opposite. He kept to himself. If he had a health issue in his finals days, nobody knew it, but he would express concern for your health.
“He was one-of-a-kind,” said coach Joe. “He had one leg – you would never know it.”
Mix was a Second Lieutenant in the Marines and served our country in Vietnam. He lost the leg when he stepped on a landmine. He will be buried at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia. At his request, he did not want a funeral. There is a small obituary in this week’s edition. It’s the way he wanted it.
“I just want him to be acknowledged,” said Joe, who is deeply saddened by his friend’s passing. “He needs something. I called a couple of the football players from back then. They really liked him, appreciated him. I told the guys, if you see one of your teammates, tell them, Dave’s gone.”
Joe met Dave while working on his master’s degree in Ypsilanti. He wanted to become a volunteer football coach and told Joe, “ ‘I have something to prove.’ ” Joe did not know what it was, nor does he know to this day. He had the credentials, since Dave was the starting quarterback for Wayne State University at one time.
During his football coaching days in Rogers City, he handled the offensive and defensive backs on the first undefeated Huron football teams in school history.
In 1970 and 1971, the Hurons went 8-0-1. The 1970 season featured one of the most notable games in school history, a 12-0 win over Class A Alpena.
Alpena came into Rogers City in 1971, wanting to prove that the 1970 game was a fluke. Joe said it was the biggest crowd he had ever seen at Gilpin Memorial Field. The Hurons still beat them, 20-6.
After the 1971 season, Joe stepped away to help raise his young family and Dave took over as head coach for the next two years. The program won three games in 1973 and 1974. “It was not because he was not any good, we ran out of talent, that was part of it,” said Joe, who took over again in 1974.
Fast-forward to 1981 when Bob Brietzke took over the team and was once again reunited with Joe and Dave. “We struggled the one year (3-6) and then we went to the Silverdome. It was Mix, Brietzke and myself (coaching).”
Joe said his friend never showed any emotion, but knew kids. “He taught them the right way,” Joe added. The men enjoyed watching Red Wings games together on Dave’s large television, and played in some hellacious floor hockey games. They would battle, fight and argue, but were friends at the end of the night.
Today we say one last goodbye to a man who was part of some of the most memorable games and seasons in local high school football history. Thanks for your service to your country and for your contributions to the youth in our communities.