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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Knox College Football Holds Inaugural State of Football Address

The Knox College Prairie Fire football program held its inaugural State of Football address on June 15, 2024, gathering more than 120 alumni from all eras of the program's history. Led by Head Football Coach Aaron Willits '08, the event aimed to showcase an institutional alignment between administration, athletics personnel, and alumni while discussing the future of the program. 

The event began with brunch in the Ford Center for the Fine Arts, giving alumni from across all eras of Knox football a chance to engage collectively and reminisce. 

Gary Jantho '89, who played on the defensive line during his time on campus, was surprised and happy to see the event come to fruition. Jantho shared excitement in meeting players and coaches from different eras of Prairie Fire football. “Knox was an excellent experience for me,” he shared. “I was happy to be back.”

Drew Sherman '00, who played as a running back during his time on campus, was impressed with the turnout. He was excited to hear about the future of the program and the plans to bolster athletics at the College. “I’m interested to hear perspectives on where we’ve been and where we’re going,” he said. 

Brunch was followed by a panel discussion in Kresge Recital Hall featuring Knox College President C. Andrew McGadney, Willits, former Head Coach Randy Oberembt '76, and Baltimore Ravens Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken '89.

The panel addressed the current state of the program and its future, highlighting plans for growth, infrastructure investments, and ways for alumni to get involved. President McGadney shared positive insights into next year’s class size and emphasized the importance of athletics in the liberal arts experience. He asked attending alumni to continue engaging with students through internship and work opportunities.

Willits shared that the current roster size for fall 2024 sat at 98, a major improvement over previous seasons. He shared his feelings of support from the institution and the belief that the College’s program is headed in the right direction. “We’re all at the table now, and that’s the point of getting us all together today,” Willits said. 

The panel was highlighted with a charged speech by Monken, who was welcomed to the stage by Oberembt. Monken felt inspired by the College’s vision after multiple personal discussions with Willits, leading to an independent meeting with President McGadney to solidify his belief in the program’s direction. 

During his speech, Monken shared his desire to continue these conversations with yearly meetings, making a point of keeping the conversations of improvement in the program regular. He looked back on the recent lack of success of Prairie Fire football and rallied the audience to help make a difference, reemphasizing President McGadney’s point of utilizing the skills of the program’s alumni base to bolster current students. He believed that creating these connections would have a great impact on the future. “There’s a collective bond in athletics,” he said. 

Following the panel, alumni were invited to remain on campus and tour recent improvements to the athletics department and elsewhere on campus, closing the day with a tailgate gathering in the Knosher Bowl

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Printed on Monday, July 22, 2024