Derrin Lamker is the head football coach of Augsburg, a private university located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A former alumnus of the university, Lamker previously graduated from Augsburg in 1997 with a degree in education while also competing as a three-sport athlete in football, basketball, and baseball.
“Whatever season I was in, that was the sport I loved,” Lamker recalls of his playing days.
“But I found my most success in football, probably because I was a 6-2 guy who did not dunk the basketball very well,” he says with a laugh.
A three-year starter at quarterback for the Auggies, Lamker threw for 6,624 yards and 46 touchdowns during his playing career, establishing school records that lasted for over a decade.
Following his stellar football career, Lamker then accepted an offer to become an assistant coach for Augsburg, thus embarking on a coaching career that would eventually land him in various schools around the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
As a coach, Lamker loves to give his quarterbacks the same freedoms he was afforded as a player, but he also is quick to point out that in addition to studying blitz packages and route combinations, his main prerogative is to ensure that every member of the team is optimizing their potential.
“All sports are the same when it comes to getting kids to play above their ability,” Lamker says.
“That’s what makes for good coaching and good business, but this philosophy is also good for everyday life. If you’re bringing everyone around you up to the next level, that means that you’re doing a nice job as a coach or a leader.”
Like many coaches, football is ingrained in Lamker’s identity.
Even though he graduated from Augsburg with a bachelor’s degree in education, the Golden Valley native admits that teaching the game of football is ultimately where his true passion lies.
“Coming out of college, I knew I could not sit in an office. Academically, I was very average, but I loved being on my feet and doing things with my hands. I also loved the mental part of coaching. I watched every coach I ever had, took away little things I learned from them, and then combined that with my style,” Lamker explains, adding that emulating predecessors is not a new trend among coaches.
“Every coach in the world has borrowed something from somebody else. Very rarely do coaches make something up on their own anymore, whether it’s a play or deciding how they want to run their team.”
For Lamker, his coaching ideologies revolve around treating people with kindness and respect.
That’s why when Lamker left his assistant role at Augsburg to become the head coach of Osseo Senior High School, he immediately began working to create a culture that would demand the same level of humility from his players and coaching staff.
“When I first got to Osseo, I decided that I was going to treat everyone the right way, from the players, to the coaches, to the janitors. I did this because I knew that if I did those things, good things would happen,” he says, but not all football types echo this sentiment.
Some of Lamker’s pundits have derided his coaching style, at times suggesting that he is too soft on his players, but Lamker insists that his calm demeanor is effective.
“Twenty years ago, coaches were still in the Bobby Knight era of belittling players and getting after them,” Lamker remarks.
“From a young age I wanted to be different than that. I didn’t like that style and I decided that it was better to be positive.”
That being said, Lamker is not afraid to reprimand players for poor effort or execution, but he also believes that coaches need to shoulder just as much responsibility as the players when it comes to producing results on the field.
“You can still get after kids, but you don’t have to yell at them. Every kid has something that makes them tick, and it is on you as a coach to figure out what that is,” Lamker says.
Having compiled a 74-39 record in his eleven seasons at Osseo, including a Class 6A state title in 2015, it’s safe to say that Lamker’s approach to coaching works.
Still, it shocked many of the Osseo faithful when Lamker left the program following that championship season and accepted the offensive coordinator job at Edina High School.
While some assumed that Lamker was leveraging Osseo’s banner season in order to climb the coaching ranks, the reality was far different.
In fact, Lamker’s exit from Osseo had nothing to do with propelling his own career forward.
“Here’s the thing: I was the head football coach at Osseo, but my daughters were going to school at Maple Grove [a crosstown rival located minutes away],” Lamker says.
“My daughters were pretty good athletes, and the Maple Grove parents were starting to get vicious. I knew my kids were not going to have a normal high school career if their dad was the rival head coach.”
But his daughters’ enrollment at Maple Grove was not the only thing that drew the ire of the concerned parents a city over.
“Adding to the tension was the fact that my football team at Osseo had beaten Maple Grove eleven times in a row,” Lamker says.
It also should be noted that Lamker’s transition to Edina was not a lateral move, both from a financial and hierarchical perspective, further signifying just how much Lamker cared for his daughters’ well-being.
“A lot of people don’t understand this, but I didn’t go to Edina to become the head coach or to earn more money. I took the job because I wanted my daughters to have a normal high school experience,” Lamker emphasizes.
Fortunately, Lamker didn’t have to wait long before he would get another chance to be a head coach.
Six months into Lamker’s tenure at Edina, head coach Reed Boltmann resigned, paving the way for Lamker to once again have his own program.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lamker’s first season at the helm resulted in Edina advancing all the way to the state tournament.
Yet, before Lamker could further cement his legacy at Edina, the former collegiate standout was soon lured out of the high school ranks when his alma mater approached him with the chance to lead the Augsburg football program.
Now, as the 2021 football season inches closer, Lamker is excited about resurrecting Augsburg, a football program that in recent years has become an afterthought in the ultra-competitive MIAC conference.
Aiding in Lamker’s rebuild is the fact that he no longer will be a full-time teacher.
Per Minnesota State High School League rules, head coaches must have a teaching license, but at the collegiate level, coaching the football program is Lamker’s primary job requirement.
This means that all his attention will be devoted to reversing the Auggies’ recent misfortunes.
“My passion is football,” Lamker says. “I like to teach, but my passion is coaching. Now I get to do my passion all day long and I don’t have to teach anymore. I just focus on coaching football and recruiting young men that I want to be a part of this football team.”
Lamker understands that at Augsburg, the days of being bombarded with Gatorade following a monumental victory might not be as routine as they were at Osseo and Edina.
Still, with Augsburg having the man who spearheaded bringing a downtrodden Osseo football program back to relevance, one can imagine that Augsburg’s penchant for residing in the basement of the MIAC won’t last much longer.
“Augsburg has been down in the dumps for numerous years, but when I first got to Osseo, they were really bad. When I went to Edina, they were mediocre, at best,” Lamker says.
“One of my strengths is taking a football program that is struggling and elevating them to the next level.”
Despite the obstacles presented by COVID-19, Lamker has already begun constructing the type of roster he wants to trot out onto Edor Nelson Field on Saturdays.
More importantly, Lamker says he has already accomplished one of his biggest goals for the Augsburg program, which is to raise the cumulative GPA of the team above 3.0.
“Football is important, but my main goal is to get every one of these guys a job so that they can become a successful member of their community. If I do that, then I’m happy,” he says.
While Lamker’s commitment to his players off-the-field is worthy of praise, there are undeniable pressures that come with being a college football coach.
For starters, boosters and administrators will be expecting Lamker to make an immediate impact on gamedays, and not as much leeway will be afforded to him should the Auggies’ on-field ineptitude persist.
But addressing those potential stressors will have to wait because right now Lamker is enjoying every second of his return to Augsburg.
Moreover, he has no desire to leave the school that first took him in all the way back in 1993.
“I’ve told everybody here that I am committed for ten years. I like coaching Division-III because the guys want to be here,” Lamker says.
“I don’t want to go anywhere. I’m getting to the point in my career where I’m looking to make my final mark, and Augsburg is where I want do it.” QS
To connect with Derrin Lamker, send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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