Wheaton’s Head Football Coach Mike Swider ’77 has spent the last 35 years building two things: a winning football team and a culture of men fighting for a higher cause.
His impressive stats catch your eye first. During his 24 years as head coach, Swider was selected as College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin’s Coach of the Year seven times, and he ranks first among Wheaton’s 21 head football coaches in both his 209-52 record and 80.1 percent winning percentage. Under his leadership, Wheaton Football reached the National Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs 10 times, winning 9 CCIW titles and producing 48 All-Americans and 230 All-Conference players.
Look closer, and you’ll see a man whose passion, dedication, and influence span farther than the field. “Coach Swider’s impact has had a generational effect,” says Neal Nethery ’93, who named his second son after Swider. “He taught us how to ‘stay tough’ as Christian men, making us better husbands and dads.” Former NFL player Andy Studebaker ’08 echoes the sentiment: “Coach Swider used football as a tool to build men of character and integrity to become godly leaders. Not a day goes by that Wheaton football doesn’t impact my life.”
The key to leaving a lasting influence? “Inspire and encourage while also challenging and confronting,” says Swider. For him, the regular “thank you” calls from former players and their families are even sweeter than championship wins. “I set out to build something that would last: men who fight for the cause of Christ and family and Wheaton football,” says Swider. “Wins, losses, and fame fade. It’s what you leave in people that transcends you.”
It’s time for Swider to step off the field, but he’s confident what he’s built will endure. For now, he urges Wheaton football to “keep reflecting the sign at the front of campus: ‘For Christ and His Kingdom’—and keep winning.”