This summer, I am going to be profiling coaches and players who have done something cool during their time off, whether it is an interesting internship or job or a daredevil feat. This is the first in a series entitled: "Summer vacation."
Eastern Michigan coach Ron English had no interest when he was first asked to skydive with the U.S. Army Golden Knights.
Scott Schultz, the school's assistant director of marketing, approached English with the idea in May. But skydiving never really appealed to English. "It wasn't on my bucket list," English said in a phone interview Friday. Schultz worked hard to convince English he should do it. "How many other head coaches can say they have done this?" Schultz asked English.
English finally changed his mind, intrigued by the opportunity. He would be doing it for a good cause, too. The Golden Knights are an elite U.S. Army parachuting team, and English would be helping to publicize the group with his jump. So he, associate athletic director Doug Dowdy and several other Eastern Michigan representatives decided to take the plunge.
On Wednesday, English arrived at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, Mich., and got a brief training session. No nerves then. He boarded the little prop plane and they went up in the air, all the way to 13,500 feet. No nerves then. The prop plane was as steady as can be, despite the chop in the air. But once it came time for English to jump out of the plane with his tandem partner, he got a little nervous.
"Then right after we jumped, it was a thrilling rush ... the feeling of the air, it was just awesome," English said.
They jumped over Lake Erie and free fell for about a minute. His parachute opened at about 5,000 feet, and his partner let him turn and steer as they made it down. It was windy that day, so they decided it would be easiest to land standing up. So English put his legs so his body formed an L-shape, and he stuck the landing perfectly. The jump lasted all of five minutes.
English was actually the second coach to skydive this week. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen also teamed with the Golden Knights in West Virginia. Holgorsen had a rougher landing but had a blast as well. But skydiving was always something Holgorsen wanted to do.
Even though English resisted the idea at first, he was thrilled he had the opportunity.
"After the experience, it deepened my appreciation for our Armed Services," English said. "These guys are the best in the world."
Would he do it again?
"I wanted to go right back up after it was over," he said.