Kaneland alum has daughter day before officially becoming WMU head coach
Kalamazoo, Mich.—Kaneland School District Hall of Fame member and Sugar Grove native P.J. Fleck had a whirlwind start to his week.
Preliminary, unconfirmed reporting from various sports media outlets began Monday, stating that Fleck would be officially named the head football coach at Western Michigan University (WMU).
The WMU Athletics Department confirmed the reports during the day Monday, stating that a press conference to officially name Fleck as their football program’s head coach had been set for Tuesday afternoon.
“When talking with people about Coach Fleck, the words used to describe his approach were ‘limitless energy,’ ‘limitless possibility,’ ‘limitless passion,’ ‘limitless enthusiasm,’ ‘limitless drive,’ ‘limitless achievement’ and ‘limitless opportunity,’” posted Mat Kanan, director of athletic media, when announcing the press conference online.
That press conference was put in jeopardy when Fleck’s wife, Tracie, went into labor Monday evening. The couple later welcomed their second child, Paisley, who will now look up to big brother, Carter Joseph (C.J.).
Fleck then made the trip to Kalamazoo, Mich., in time for the press conference.
“It’s great to be back in the MAC,” Fleck said as he reached the podium after being officially announced as the Broncos’ head coach. “I feel like I’ve come home.”
He presented the packed Varsity W Club Room in the Seeyle Center on the WMU campus with his plan as the university’s 15th head coach.
“We will do everything we can to bring success on the field and in the classroom,” he said.
Fleck described his approach to building a collegiate football program, as well as giving some insight into himself as a person.
“I’m an ordinary guy and I’ve surrounded myself with extraordinary people,” he said.
Fleck was a standout wide receiver on the back-to-back undefeated KHS state championship teams in 1998 and 1999. He set state records during his time as a Knight, with 95 catches for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns in his senior season. In his KHS career, Fleck caught 199 passes for 3,121 yards and 34 touchdowns, including a string of 40 straight games in which he caught at least one pass.
He then went on to play wide receiver for Northern Illinois University, where he earned first-team All Mid-American Conference honors in 2003. As a senior, he led NIU with 77 catches for 1,028 yards and six touchdowns.
Fleck began his coaching career after two seasons as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. After signing with the 49ers as a free agent in 2004, he spent most of that season on the practice squad before making an appearance versus New England late in the year. He was placed on the injured reserve roster in 2005 before retiring from professional football in June 2006.
Fleck began his coaching career as an offensive graduate assistant at Ohio State University in 2006, working with the Buckeyes’ tight ends and assisting with the special teams units.
Northern Illinois University hired Fleck in 2007 as a wide receivers coach, and he also served as the team’s recruiting coordinator. He then took wide receivers coaching position for Rutgers University in 2010. In early 2012, Fleck was hired as NIU offensive coordinator, but resigned the following day, instead taking a wide receivers coaching position with the Tampa Bay Buccanears in the National Football League.
Now, with his head coaching position at WMU, Fleck is the youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Fleck and his wife annually host the P.J. Fleck “Live Your Dream” Football Camp that benefits the Juvenile Arthritis Foundation (Friends of Carra), Alapecia Foundation (Locks of Love), Coach Kill’s Cancer Fund and the P.J. Fleck Scholarship Fund.