Let’s not mince words here: The heart of the Peabody High football program was ripped out in 2005 when the decision was made to remove head coach Ed Nizwantowski from the job he had held for 23 years. Say what you want about Niz — and hundreds of both his biggest boosters and most ardent detractors have done so over the years — but the man knew how to coach. More importantly, he knew how to get the absolute most out of a group of young men committed to winning football games. Wearing the Tanner Blue for Nizwantowski was a brotherhood, a kinship that didn’t end when you graduated.
Since then, the program has at times been more disorganized than a kindergarten room when the recess bell sounds; other times, you get the sense that it’s a no-win situation for everyone involved.
Of the three men that followed Nizwantowski, Wlasuk was far and away the most qualified, best person for the job. A member of Nizwantowski’s coaching staff, he wanted so badly to restore pride, tradition and the once-taken-for-granted winning ways to his beloved Tanners that he virtually put his life on hold in an attempt to do so. He worked tirelessly to bring a semblance of focus and commitment, got his players involved in offseason programs such as Gridiron Training, and talked up his team to anyone who would listen.
What impressed me the most was that he was universally respected by his peers. Football coaches, like folks in almost any line of work, can at times snipe and hold grudges against each other, but I didn’t get that sense when it came to Wlasuk. They voted him Coach of the Year last season; those aren’t given out to guys who don’t know what they’re doing.