The Southern Michigan Timberwolves are one of the top developmental football teams in the nation, and they’re just now getting the attention they deserve after winning 17 games in a row, a new franchise record.
Led by head coach Don Butynski, the Timberwolves have more than just a huge win streak under their belts. They’re also AAA national champions, a title they won back in January by beating the New York Rebels, 25-24 in the National Football Events Palm Bowl.
As is the norm at this level, players come and go and rosters are always changing, but according to Butynski, the key to the Timberwolves’ continued success is the type of players he brings onto the squad. He’s looking for character over talent, and he feels that has paid off for him and the organization in a big way.
Frankly, the results are hard to argue.
“I recruit high character guys. I put athleticism and athletic ability second,” the head coach explained. “If you have high character you can play for me. If not, then I can’t trust you in tight situations. The guys on the team are high character guys and they don’t know what it means to quit, they don’t quit”
Butynski went on to say that his team just seems to have a belief that in can win any game, and that’s an edge his teams necessarily haven’t had in the past.
“That’s a huge factor for us,” he said.
Specifically discussing a few players who have led the Timberwolves to where they are today, wideout Jose Cannon and quarterback Steve Kulikowski both came up. Cannon, a team captain for two years running, is a veteran football player who’s just as important to the Timberwolves off the field as he is on it.
“He’s a very respectable guy. Hard worker, no nonsense and he buys into my vision and the vision we have here in Monroe with the Timberwolves,” Butynski said. “He’s a huge factor in player relations with players, coaches, and staff.”
For as important as Cannon is to the organization, Kulikowski has been just as big for the Timberwolves in terms of leadership. He’s new on the roster but brings indoor and arena experience to the table.
“He’s a tough, tough kid,” the head coach said. “He just rallies around what we need to do and he makes plays — he’s a real silent leader. Doesn’t say a whole lot, but [he’s] one of the toughest guys on the field and the guys really respect him.”
Defensively, linebacker and team captain Derek Tate and defensive lineman Jayson Cummings have led the way for the Timberwolves.
“He’s a very very emotional guy — wears his heart on his sleeve and he flies around the field,” Butynski said of Tate. “He’s everywhere making plays, whether [he’s] intercepting passes or making a tackle in the backfield, he’s a very smart ball player, very aggressive.”
Cummings, according to the coach, is another one of the emotional leaders on the squad. He’s a high-motor lineman who doesn’t quit, and he’s part of a defensive unit that has a penchant for stepping up and making big plays.
The Timberwolves have three games left between now and the playoffs, but keeping their winning streak going will be easier said than done playing against the Lorain County Nightmares, Detroit Seminoles and finally, the Ohio Raiders.
‘We control our own destiny,” Butynski explained. “If we win out we will not leave Monroe for the rest of the season, even the championship. We need to win these next three games.”