Don Treadwell has coached in some of the most hallowed venues in college football. But today, when his Miami RedHawks open the season against Ohio State at Ohio Stadium, it will mark the first time the Oberlin High School graduate will be visiting The Horseshoe as a head coach.
His Big Ten ties are extensive. He cut his teeth as a coach on the staff of former Buckeyes’ head coach Jim Tressell at Youngstown State. While at YSU, Treadwell coached on the same staff as Mark Dantonio, who brought him along when Dantonio accepted the top job at Cincinnati before moving on to Michigan State.
In fact, Treadwell’s first head coaching position came when he filled in on an interim basis for Dantonio, who suffered a heart attack during the 2010 season.
Treadwell never really thought about or anticipated leading a team into a venue like Ohio Stadium … he didn’t want to look past his attention to details.
“The way I played is the way I coach … one game at a time,” he said. “I have always believed, as a man of faith, if you take care of the little things the big things will take care of themselves.”
After the 2010 season, one of those big things came to pass when RedHawks head coach Mike Heywood left Miami to take over at Pittsburgh. Treadwell, who was the Spartans’ offensive coordinator, was tapped to take over at his alma mater. Miami introduced him as Heywood’s replacement at a press conference Jan. 10, 2010.
Treadwell was a four-year starter at wide receiver at Miami from 1978-81, earning first-team All-MAC honors as a junior and being voted team captain as a senior. He had 73 career receptions for 1,540 yards, averaging a school-record 21.1 yards per catch.
He joined an impressive list of Miami graduates who ultimately became the head coach at their alma mater, including Ara Parseghian, John Pont, Bo Schembechler, Bill Mallory, Tom Reed and Randy Walker. Despite joining Miami’s famed “Cradle of Coaches,” Treadwell never forgot where he came from.
He has fond memories of growing up in Oberlin.
“The tremendous community is what I remember,” he said. “I can’t segment it to one area because so many people affected me in such a positive way. When I grew up in Oberlin, because it was such a small town, everyone knew everyone. Even though you didn’t know it at the time, but looking back now, people were always looking out for each other.
“That’s one thing that I appreciate now, that Oberlin did such a great job as a community of helping everyone, being connected and really providing a family atmosphere throughout the entire town.”
When Treadwell was entering Oberlin High School, a hot-shot quarterback had just made his mark on the program and was playing for Youngstown State. Cliff Stoudt ended up being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round of the 1977 NFL Draft. He was someone Treadwell and his friends looked up to.
“Cliff had that incredible arm,” Treadwell said. “He was in the pros for 12-plus years, and he would come back and sometimes would throw some passes to us. We thought it was the greatest thing in the world … catching passes from Cliff Stoudt. But here he was, just another Oberlin guy, working hard, keeping his nose to the grind, making the best of his situation and never forgetting where he came from.”
That’s one thing Treadwell hopes he will never get away from … remembering where he came from. He wants to give back to the community that meant so much to him growing up, and does that through keeping tabs on the Oberlin High football team and coming back at least once a year.
“Even when I became a head coach, my coaches knew it was the one place we were always stopping whether they had a top prospect or not,” Treadwell said of visiting Oberlin. “I want to stay in touch and try to help the young men. I’ve always been committed to Oberlin, and even if I couldn’t help a young man wherever I was at with a scholarship or something like that, I am always willing to avail myself to families in any way I can. Whether it’s giving them good advice or making sure they understand the recruiting picture.
“It’s been rewarding to see a young man, even if he went somewhere else, to know I had a hand in helping him and his family.”
Oberlin High School became the Phoenix a few years ago … just like Miami University went from being the Redskins to the RedHawks. Treadwell doesn’t dwell on the names. He was an Oberlin Indian, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel a connection to the Phoenix.
“Here there is a history of Redskins and there’s a history of RedHawks,” he said of his program in Oxford. “I look at it in a simple way, either Oberlin or here at Miami with the RedHawks or the Redskins … they are two sides of the same coin. That cuts right to the chase and it’s a simple way to look at it because it is true. Both sides have significance, but they both make up one coin. It’s still the Oberlin football program, there are just two subtitles. Whether you go back to the Indians, or to the Phoenix today.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or ctsportschroniclet.com.