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Present and former Hillsdale Charger football players mourned the loss of defensive coor­di­nator Craig Blanchard. 

“He was just a great guy, and he was a great guy 24/7,” Hillsdale’s head football coach Keith Otterbein said about Craig Blan­chard, who died at the age of 62 on Dec. 22 after a battle with mul­tiple myeloma.

Blan­chard grew up in Jonesville. In his senior year at Jonesville High School, he earned Class C first-team all-state honors while rushing for 1,706 yards. 

“When I was playing football at Hillsdale, I actually hosted Blan­chard as a recruit,” Otterbein said. “I didn’t do a very good job, because he went to Grand Valley State University.” 

After his four years at Grand Valley, Blan­chard got into coaching, working at several schools before coming to Hillsdale in 2001. 

“He had been here a long time,” Otterbein said. “He affected an unbe­lievable number of kids and fam­ilies, and his legacy is going to live on through the players that he influ­enced and their fam­ilies, and just con­tinue on for generations.” 

Dan Shanley ’19 said Blan­chard cannot be encom­passed in any one story. 

“He truly cared about us as men first and ath­letes second,” Shanley said. “Any meeting or con­ver­sation I had one-on-one with him he always asked about my life and how I was doing before we talked about football. In the very last meeting I had after my fifth year we were talking about the job I had and how I would have to spend a few weeks in Minnesota.”

Two years later, Shanley saw Blan­chard at homecoming. 

“He was asking me about how Min­nesota was and how I was enjoying living in Grand Rapids,” Shanley said. “It blew my mind that he even remem­bered that, let alone truly care about how that went for me while he was bat­tling cancer.”

Wain­wright Clarke ’19 said he remembers Blan­chard calling players “fire ants” or “fire plugs” whenever they made a gusty play. 

“The other great thing that I imme­di­ately remember occurred in Findlay University’s locker room after we beat them in 2018 on our way to winning the cham­pi­onship that year,” Clarke said. “As we were cel­e­brating the win, Coach Lindley leaned over to Blanch and bet that he wouldn’t start dancing in the locker room to show how happy he was with our per­for­mance. And sure enough, that’s exactly what Blanch pro­ceeded to do.”

Freshman Luke Con­stantino said Blan­chard brought a pos­itive attitude to every rainy practice.

“Last year when the weather at practice was mis­erable, he’d just say ‘it’s 70 and sunny, men,’” Con­stantino said. “That has stuck with me all this time, because ‘70 and sunny’ is how life should always be lived. No matter what cir­cum­stances you are faced with, no matter how dark and cold you think it is, it’s all about per­spective. That’s how Blanch lived, like it was 70 and sunny every time we stepped on the field.”

Junior Kyle Kudla recalled Blanchard’s intensity for game day.

“Coach Blanch would say ‘Bugaboo’ when referring to an opponent’s offensive play that would be tough for our defense to stop and we always got a kick out of that so we adopted it as a line­backer mantra,” Kudla said. 

Kudla said Blanchard’s game day intensity always got the defense fired up. 

“We would all meet pregame and he would yell ‘ATTACK’ repeatedly and we would follow loud enough to scare anyone in a 100-foot radius,” Kudla said. “He had this innate ability to always put a smile on your face but also tell it to you straight up. He always let us know how much he loved us and it was easy to see how much he cared for his guys. The world is a better place for having had Craig Blan­chard in it. One of a kind person with the highest character.”

Senior Nathaniel Chambers remem­bered a story from his junior year. 
We just came off of a tough loss to Tiffin and winning that game would have kept us in the race for the con­ference title,” Chambers said. “And to add salt to the wound, I had my worst game of the season and at the time, felt like a lot of the blame was on me for how the game turned out.”

Chambers said Blan­chard came up to him after the team meeting to say he was proud of Chambers’ season and how he rep­re­sented the team.

“This guy, after my worst per­for­mance of the season, after all my frus­tra­tions, after all of the team’s frus­tra­tions, he still managed to see the good,” Chambers said. “I never had the chance to thank him, but I thank him now for how much he cared about me, about us, as human beings.”