A FAMILY AFFAIR
It’s always been special for Theo Muellenberg to share the sidelines with his father, Rick.
The Bangor senior was first allowed on the gridiron 10 years ago to serve as water boy for a pretty good Cardinal football team that just happened to be coached by Rick Muellenberg.
Those first years supplying water to the players made for some fond memories for both father and son, but none can compare to how special the last three have been.
In that span, the Cardinals have put together winning streak of 27 regular season games, 18 Scenic Bluffs Conference games and 15 home games.
Rick and the rest of the Bangor coaching staff are a significant part of that success, but Theo has been along for the ride as well, playing a big role in a recent stretch that saw Bangor capture the 2015 Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 7 state championship, advanced to the semifinals a season ago and win three straight SBC conference titles.
This season the Cardinals are gearing up for what they hope is a fourth straight conference championships run in a season that will be the last one Theo and Rick spend together on the sidelines as player and coach.
“I’ll tell you, it started long before this,” said Rick Muellenberg during an interview at a Bangor practice earlier this week.
“Theo’s been on the sidelines since he was a third grader as our water boy. To have him along for all of these years is more than I can ask for,” he continued. “He fits into out team and he puts in the same effort. I expect the same out of him and it’s great having him around.”
A three-year letter winner who plays fullback and outside linebacker, Theo is one of 13 Bangor seniors who have not lost a regular season game throughout their career.
“It’s great,” offered Theo of the relationship he’s had with his father on and off the gridiron.
“He’s always been a great role model,” he continued. “Being able to experience state with him – I think that was probably the most amazing thing.”
Both Rick and Theo admit that they’re highly focused on football in the fall, but they believe they’ve been able to maintain a great relationship on and off the field because they are able to separate football from family.
“I think he and I do a good job. At home, I’m still Dad, but out here, I’m coach Muellenberg and my expectations for him are the same as they are for everyone else,” said Rick.
“During football season, we’re locked in, but it’s football talk when were here and when we’re at home its just like normal,” Theo echoed. “He’s still my dad and I’m still his son.”
With 13 seniors returning to a team that won a state title two seasons ago and made it to the semifinals last year, Bangor is once again looked at as one of the top teams in the area.
Rick Muellenberg has led the Cardinals to a stellar 129-54 overall record during his 18 seasons as Bangor’s head football coach.
He’ll be looking for No. 130 next Thursday night, Aug. 17, when the Cards host a familiar for in Melrose-Mindoro in a 7p.m. nonconference contest at Bangor High School.
Bangor defeated Melrose-Mindoro 40-7 in last season’s opener, but the Mustangs went undefeated in the regular season after that, capturing the the Dairyland Conference championship and earning a berth in the WIAA Division 6 playoffs.
Rick Muellenberg believes Melrose-Mindoro will again present a big challenge Bangor this season despite losing some key players from a season ago.
“I think it’s a good opening game for both of us. Both teams are pretty physical. We feel fortunate we’ve been able to get the upper hand over the past few years,” he said.
“We’ve got 13 seniors this year. There are a lot of expectations, so we’re excited,” Rick continued. “I feel fortunate to be able to be out here coaching these guys.”
When you’re talking about goals for the season, it really doesn’t matter which of the Mullenbergs you ask – the answer is the same.
“Our first goal is to win the conference - that’s always our first goal – and to go undefeated,” Theo offered. “Then, if we make the playoffs, we have to take it one game at a time.”
Rick, of course, echoed those thoughts nearly verbatim.