Long before she sat in the bleachers at Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium to watch Hillsdale College football games, Amy Otterbein grew up sitting in her family’s living room watching football as a kid.
She watched games with her father, Stephen Adams, and not too much has changed. But now, she roots solely for the Chargers, along with the rest of her family. She and her husband, head football coach Keith Otterbein, passed down their football tradition to their kids, and plan to continue the tradition with their grandkids in the future.
“I really was my father’s son,” Amy said.
Since her dad played football, he enjoyed watching games with Amy since neither of her two sisters , Lynn and Jill, were interested. Neither was their mother, Patsy. It was a typical for Amy and her father to spend afternoons either watching or playing sports together.
“I played softball, so I would play softball with him sometimes,” Amy said. “But it wasn’t a varsity sport.”
Although Amy participated in both cheerleading and synchronized swimming as varsity sports in high school and continued with the latter at University of Michigan, her time in high school was before the inception of Title IX, which meant there weren’t as many options available to her, such as softball, she explained.
“But I’ve always liked football,” Amy said. “Well, I’ve always liked every sport.”
She began dating Keith in high school, who is one year older and lived in the same neighborhood as Amy in Lathrup Village, a northwest suburb of Detroit. Although Keith went to Hillsdale and Amy went to Michigan, they “pretty much” made it through the four years, according to Amy.
After cheerleading for high school football games, Amy would visit Keith during his first year playing at Hillsdale, cheering from the stands.
After college, Amy and Keith moved to Hillsdale for Keith to begin his first job as an assistant football coach. Since then, the Otterbeins have moved to five different locations for coaching jobs.
All three of their kids, Steve, Alyssa, and Brad, followed in their father’s footsteps by attending Hillsdale with strong involvement in the football program. After playing on the team, Stephen and Brad both currently serve as assistant coaches, giving the term “family business” some real meaning. Alyssa supported the team by serving on the training staff as a student at Hillsdale.
“Sometimes we’d really all be on the bus together,” Amy said in explaining the Otterbein family involvement with the football team. “I try to go [to away games] when I can get out of work and if it’s not too far.”
Although she spends 30 hours a week working for the Orthopedic Rehab Specialists as a physical therapist, Amy still makes time for Hillsdale football.
“Thank goodness I do like football,” Amy said.
Assistant football coach and Amy’s oldest son, Steve, said his mom has only missed a few games in all the years he’s played and coached for Hillsdale.
“She’s one of our biggest fans,” Steve said.
Given all the time their husbands spend at games, Amy said the coaches’ wives do a lot of tailgating, providing an opportunity to get to know players’ families.
“By the time [the players] are seniors I’ve gotten to know them,” Amy said. “And then the freshmen come in and it starts all over again.”
When Keith worked as an assistant at Hillsdale for the first time, the Otterbeins only lived there for two years.
“When we lived here the first time I was like ‘Eh, I don’t think so,’ so I worked in Jackson, and we lived here for two years and I was ready to get out,” Amy said.
After bouncing around as a coach between Divisions I and II, the Otterbeins moved back to Hillsdale, where Keith has been the head coach for the last 17 seasons.
“We got a chance to move back here. [Keith] didn’t think I would want to, but I was excited about it,” Amy said. “Now that we’ve been here I think it’s great.”
Today, the entire family is settled in Hillsdale. Despite Alyssa moving with her husband to California and Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he was stationed in the Navy, she’s been back in town for almost three years.
“We both really enjoy being around them,” Keith said. “We’re extremely blessed to have all five of our grandkids right here.”
“We have a spot at the very top of the stadium and they can’t escape and they bring coloring books,” Keith continued. “Brad and Steve and their wives come with all their kids, so games can be counted as a family affair.”
In her spare time, Amy enjoys walking their family dog, Cooper, or “Cooper the pooper,” according to her grandkids.
Although football is an Otterbein family operation, Cooper is one member of the family who doesn’t come to games.
“It’s enough that we just have the grandkids running around,” Amy said.
When not at work or football games, Amy can often be found at her church, Trinity Lutheran, as the secretary of the council. And when she’s not working, she’s volunteering, or attending Bible study. Fully immersed in the Hillsdale community, Amy doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
“I’m going to retire here,” she said. “We have five grandkids and they all live within a few minutes of us.”