Mike Moreau insists he’s the same guy now as he was the last time we saw him prancing up and down the sidelines.
“I just got my voice back last Friday,” he said with a laugh. “It was completely gone. But that’s me.
“Things haven’t changed. I’ve always been an uptempo, energy guy. I’m loud and boisterous. That’s just me.”
Moreau, who is 62 and hasn’t been a head coach since retiring as Hilbert’s football coach in 2006, will bring his exuberant personality to the field again when he leads his new team, the Kaukauna Ghosts, in their season opener tonight against Oshkosh West at Titan Stadium.
Moreau is one of four new head coaches in the Post-Crescent Media coverage area, joining Steve Jung at Neenah, Brian Ryczkowski at Little Chute and Marc Marsh at New London.
Debuting with a new team is about the only thing Moreau has in common with the new coaches. While the other three are just building their coaching resumes, Moreau was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003.
His ledger includes a 215-59 record in 26 seasons at Hilbert, including a Division 5 state championship in 1989 and three second-place finishes at state.
Moreau said he wasn’t looking for a head-coaching position, but you can hear it in his voice that the passion is still there.
“It’s not something that I thought about,” he said. “Was it a surprise to me? I guess so. It just happened the way it happened. I was not looking in any way, shape or form.”
Moreau spent last season as an assistant coach on Chris Sievert’s staff at Kaukauna. When Sievert didn’t return as coach, Moreau was asked if he would be interested in taking over as head coach.
Prior to last season as an assistant, Moreau had pretty much stayed away from football, except for a brief stint helping the Stockbridge football team get its program off the ground a few years ago.
“I have grandkids that are in the (Kaukauna) system, one who is a sophomore,” Moreau said. “I was looking to be an assistant coach and hook on that way. I don’t think I was looking to be the guy, but it just kind of happened.”
Moreau is now in charge of a program that has gone 9-27 in the past four seasons and was suffering from a decline in participation.
His first order of business was to get kids excited about Kaukauna football again, which he and his assistants have done. This season, about 110 kids are in the program.
The increase in participation is important, because Moreau thinks the only way schools can compete in the rugged Valley Football Association is by having a platoon system and not being forced into having to play kids on offense and defense.
“Our main focus, once we got some numbers out, was to completely platoon not only on Friday night, but also in practice,” Moreau said. “When we came out of contact days, we took our varsity kids, about 43 or 44, and split them in half, with 22 kids on each side of the ball and that’s all they do.
“Appleton North and Kimberly and Menasha — and there’s a lot of others, too — they platoon everywhere. We felt that was vital to our program. We’re not as deep as I’d like to be, but we’re developing kids every day because that’s all they do. From that standpoint, I think we’ve progressed faster than I thought we would.”
Moreau said it wasn’t a tough sell to the players, who quickly realized a platoon system was a way for more kids to get on the field.
“With the competition in this league, you can’t play both ways,” said Moreau, who will also serve as defensive coordinator this season. “There’s too many good athletes and good coaches in this conference. You can’t do that and win. The kids bought in 100 percent. They were all in favor of it.
“More kids are playing special teams. Everyone is having a part in making this a very successful program. I think the kids embraced it and were happy to do it. This allows more kids to get on the field.”
Moreau doesn’t feel like the game has passed him by with the six-year layoff, and he isn’t worried about the jump from a small-town program like Hilbert to the VFA.
“Somebody said to me, ‘You’ve been out of it for a while,’ ” Moreau said. “But unless I missed a memo, the field is still 100 yards long and you can still only play 11 kids at a time.
“You still have to block and you still have to tackle. I don’t think things have changed a whole lot.”
— Mike Sherry: 920-993-1000, ext. 289, or email@example.com; On Twitter @MikeSherry14