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Josh Lynn’s departure left Loper football players stunned

Football on field.

Shocked. Stunned. Silenced.

That was the reaction of UNK football players after former coach Josh Lynn announced that he was leaving the program for West Texas A&M on Dec. 13. 

“My reaction, kind of almost the whole team’s reaction was it was really out of nowhere for us,” said redshirt senior linebacker Zach Schlager. “It was just kind of a shock to everybody. I think a lot of guys were honestly just disappointed because we felt like we were on that rise and we were doing really well. It took us really by surprise.”

Lynn had been with the Lopers since 2017, leading the team to an NCAA Division II second-round playoff birth in 2021 and a 35-25 record over his six seasons as coach. 

While the locker room was hushed by the news, questions quickly began to fill the players’ minds about what was next. 

“There were a lot of what-ifs that were in the air,” said punter Hunter Kraus. “We had a good feeling of what was coming up in our future with knowing our coaches, and then there was just an abrupt stop.”

Some players had been with Lynn for many years, but his departure also conflicted some of the younger athletes on the roster.

“Choosing where you go to college is a big decision, so I was a little upset,” said redshirt freshman linebacker Parker Wise. “Signing to a guy and him leaving never feels good, but at the same time, I was excited for the new head coach and for the new opportunity to come about. I just leaned on my teammates and they helped me get through it.”

Wise was recruited by Lynn and took a redshirt year in the 2022 season. The quick change at head coach wasn’t what he was expecting, but he is remaining with the Lopers in 2023. 

Following Lynn’s departure from UNK, former University of Nebraska assistant coach Ryan Held was hired to take his place. Held and his coaching staff have big shoes to fill, but the transition has gone smoothly so far.

“They’ve been having a ton of meetings with the offensive guys and have been getting all the install in,” Schlager said. “They really are showing that they want to be around us. They’re in the weight room with us every morning hanging out and getting to know every player.”

With a new coaching staff behind them, the Lopers’ goal is still the same. Win. 

“I think a general consensus between us players is we’re excited with the talent that was brought in,” Kraus said. “We know that we have lots of skill and talent still on this team. We’re going to be fighting and working our tails off to get to the conference championship.”

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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