Rod Robison wins Jeff Menage Award
NFA is built on a foundation of top-flight coaches that have the desire and drive to work with young football players and help them maximize their abilities.
From Founder/President Darin Slack to Will Hewlett to JC Boice to Dub Maddox and all the way down the line, NFA coaches are helping more and more campers realize their dreams of playing college football.
One coach, Jeff Menage, brought a wealth of collegiate coaching experience to NFA. “He was just a wonderful, wonderful coach,” Coach Slack said. “Jeff represented, for us, everything we desire in a certified coach.”
On Dec. 17, 2013, Coach Menage passed away in his native Minnesota at the age of 49. It was a terrible shock to Coach Slack and the rest of the NFA family.
But his memory lives on, and the first annual Jeff Menage Coaches Award was presented at the Duel earlier in July. Among the many deserving recipients, Coach Rod Robison was chosen as the first winner.
“To me, being associated with Coach Menage is an honor,” an emotional Coach Robison said. “We have a great group of coaches, and what Coach Slack said about Coach Menage, as far as epitomizing what we look for in coaches when we’re going through certification, he was that. Coach Menage was that personified. I knew him very well. I traveled with him. He knew my family and he was a great man and a great coach. I feel blessed just to have known him.”
Before joining NFA, Coach Menage was on the sidelines at Worthington Community College, the University of Minnesota, Morningside College, Westmar College, South Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota and Murray State.
Not long after leaving Murray State and returning to Minnesota to work in the insurance business, he got the football coaching bug and went through the certification process with NFA.
Remembering Coach Menage
“He was a guy who had all the reason in the world to declare he was above needing to get better,” Coach Slack said. “You would never know his background when you met him because he came in with the attitude of, ‘Hey, I need to learn how to do quarterback training and I need to learn how to serve.’ So he would take the most challenging groups, he would take the youngest groups, and he was always willing to serve.”
Instead of carrying himself with an arrogant air or trying to take shortcuts, Coach Menage rolled up his sleeves and went to work for NFA.
“He never drew attention to his experience as a way to validate himself,” Coach Slack said. “In fact, it was almost difficult to get him to talk about it, not because he didn’t want to but because he felt if he did he would be leaning on something that was irrelevant to what we were doing. He was really committed to the idea of coaching football and building men.”
Not long before he passed away, Coach Menage traveled across the Atlantic Ocean with Coach Slack for some international football camps.
“When I spent 11 days with him in and around England, it was sometimes hard to find fields,” Coach Slack said. “We had one camp inside on a handball court, and Jeff was demonstrating drills during one of the sessions. He didn’t throw particularly well and he was very upset with himself.
“After camp ended, I asked if anybody had seen Jeff,” Coach Slack continued. “He was in a dark handball gym throwing the football. I found him and said: ‘What are you doing man?’ He said: ‘I’ve got to get better.’ He was almost 50 years old trying to throw better so he could do his job better. That’s the kind of guy he was and that’s the kind of guy we want at NFA. That was the kind of spirit he had.”
Coach Menage’s spirit will always be alive with NFA. And given the way he carried himself, Coach Menage would have been thrilled that Coach Robison won the first award in his memory.
“I’ve known Rod a long time,” Coach Slack said. “We first met in a foodcourt in Reno when I was doing training. We spent 53 days on the road one summer. If there is a guy on our team that has embodied the kinds of things that Jeff did, it’s Rod Robison.”