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Michalkiewicz leaves De Pere football for Kimberly

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

DE PERE – After the De Pere High School football team won its first Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) title since 2015, Head Coach Chad Michalkiewicz said he wasn’t looking for a new job.

But then, Kimberly came calling.

Michalkiewicz, who coached at De Pere for 11 seasons, was recently hired by Kimberly for the departed Steve Jones, who resigned in December.

“Lots of people might think I’d take a job like that on a whim, but it was a meticulous process on both sides,” Michalkiewicz said. “Kimberly did its homework and wanted to make sure who they chose was the right fit. It’s an amazing opportunity for me.”

Chad Michalkiewicz

De Pere finished 9-2 overall last season, including an undefeated FRCC season.

The Redbirds lost in overtime in Level 3 to Hartford, 43-42.

Michalkiewicz was 62-43 in his 11 seasons at De Pere, including a 9-0 FRCC mark in 2015 and a 7-0 conference record during the alternate fall season in spring 2021.

“Coaching at De Pere is not a stepping-stone job,” Michalkiewicz said. “It’s an outstanding program, and I’ve enjoyed my time here.”

Michalkiewicz is currently a teacher in De Pere and will remain so until the end of the school year.

“I also received a teaching job in Kimberly, so we intend to move to the district,” Michalkiewicz said. “My wife Tracie and I are excited to join the Kimberly community and raise our two daughters (Zoey and Ava).”

Michalkiewicz said it was difficult to tell the De Pere players about his intentions.

“That was tough,” he said. “I was formerly offered the job (Tuesday, Feb. 8, in the afternoon), so calling a meeting for Wednesday morning (Feb. 9) wasn’t possible. The best I could do was after school that day. Things started to leak out, and the kids started asking questions. It was important for them to hear it from my mouth. There were at least 60 kids stuffed into my classroom. It was an emotional moment. There’s nothing easy about leaving De Pere.”

In 11 seasons, Jones led the Papermakers to five Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association state championships, a 70-game winning streak that set a state record and an overall 129-9 record.

Despite the success of the Kimberly program, Michalkiewicz said he’s not nervous to take over after Jones.

“Not at all,” he said. “That’s not meant as an arrogant statement, and there are a couple of reasons for that. No. 1, Steve (Jones) offered to mentor me. It’s a bonus for the kids in the program to have some stability. Secondly, I’ve never been a guy who gets nervous. I trust in the preparation and will have a strong assistant coaching staff in place.”

Michalkiewicz said he wasn’t told how many applicants for the Kimberly job there were, but he “imagines there were quite a few.”

“There are lots of expectations at Kimberly – I’m aware of that,” he said. “It’s probably the top high school football job in the state.”

Michalkiewicz leaves the De Pere program in good hands for the next head coach.

“Some people might ask, ‘How in the heck do you leave a team with Gabe Herman, Noah Gehin and Michael Alexander returning?’” he said. “That’s a fair question. It’s right to leave a program in good hands. Whoever takes over will have nine returning starters on offense. De Pere football is in good shape – I take comfort in knowing that.”

De Pere Athletics Director Jeff Byczek said it’s a good opportunity for Michalkiewicz.

“I’m happy for Chad and his young family,” he said. “It’s an opportunity all coaches want – to see what they can do. I wish him the best. It wasn’t an easy decision for him.”

Byczek also said the De Pere job is appealing.

“We’re the defending FRCC champs and have a ton of returning starters coming back,” he said. “Our facility is brand new with the football field – there are lots of attractive things. Most importantly, we have great kids and families.”

Byczek said the job is already posted.

“The school district, like others, will soon be coming out with teaching positions,” he said. “Many coaches interested in this job will also be looking for a teaching job. By the end of the month, we should know more about those openings. Hopefully, by early to mid-spring, we’ll have a new football coach.”

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