As a four-year letterman on the Wartburg College football team, Brian Albert rarely left the field.
Over his career he started nearly every game, 14 of them on both offense and defense, led the team in tackles three times and rushing once, played on every special team and even called the defenses in the huddle.
“I used to tell the coach coming off the field is more trouble than it’s worth, just keep me in,” Albert said.
It’s no wonder Albert, Glenwood Community High School football coach and physical education teacher, was inducted into the Wartburg College Athletic Hall of Fame on Oct. 17. Albert, who was on hand for the homecoming weekend ceremony, was inducted along with four other former athletes at the Waverly school.
As a linebacker and running back, Albert was a hard-nosed farm kid from Hudson accustomed to playing every down like it was his last. Starting out as a lanky 180-pounder he grew into a 220-pound menace on both sides of the ball, earning him first team All-Iowa Conference honors as a junior and senior as well as the team’s most valuable player award both seasons. In 1976, Albert was named to the Lutheran College All-America team.
To this day Albert is recalled as the last of the Knights’ iron men, playing offense and defense in an era when few could manage the demands or strain.
With the Knights’ offense struggling his junior year he was approached by head coach Don Canfield about taking some snaps at running back.
“I just wanted to play the game,” Albert said. “If I could help I figured it would be fine. I didn't want it to be a show thing. I came from a small high school where we always played both ways and never came off the field.”
Albert finished the season as the team's leading rusher and tackler. He repeated the feat for seven games the next season, playing mostly as a fullback. “It was something different. I started out as probably being more offensive oriented but that didn't work out so well so I just did both.”
Today, Albert admits now playing both ways for most of those two seasons took its toll. He began his senior season at a chiseled 220 pounds and ended it, as he said, “looking like a cross country runner” at 181 pounds.
“I lost weight but at the same time on defense it’s easier to tackle when guys aren't trying to avoid you so on offense I wasn't going to run around a lot of people so I had a lot of collisions. I think getting used to that helped me on defense,” said Albert, who still looks like he's in playing shape.
He credits a lot of his experience at Wartburg with forming his desire to be a coach.
In a Nov. 13, 1975 story in The Hudson Herald Wartburg head coach Don Canfield is quoted as saying, “Brian perceives the game as 22 players. Not just the one or two he is matched with.”
But even before all that, Albert knew after his playing days were over he wanted to stay close to the game. After turning down a tryout with the then NFL expansion Seattle Seahawks – “I figured I was too slow for defensive back and probably not big enough for linebacker,” he said – he gave farming a shot near his hometown of Hudson. The pull of the game proved too strong, however, and he was drawn back, this time to coaching.
He figured coaching might pacify his desire to play.
“I think I always wanted to be a coach,” said Albert. “I loved to play, If I could have kept playing I would have loved that too. I just love to work. It was a work ethic thing, I wasn't sure if I would go back into farming or coaching.”
A business management and physical education major in college, Albert went on to coach football at Twin Cedars-DeBussy, Lucas and Vally of Elgin before taking over the Glenwood program in ____. After leaving Glenwood following the 1988 season he coached the defense at Wartburg for two seasons before getting back into the high school ranks at Marshalltown High School. After 12 years at Marshalltown Albert returned to Glenwood, where he has been ever since.
Following some lean years , the coach appears to have the Rams' prospects looking up. Glenwood has its first winning season in 15 years this year and is poised for its first state playoff appearance since 1994.
Albert and his family attended Saturday's homecoming game – a 35-21 loss to Coe College - and mingled with former teammates and coaches. Albert and the other four inductees were introduced at halftime of the football game. He was nominated for the award by a former teammate, Terry Henricks, a starting center on the 1976 team. Albert's brother, Jerry, a longtime football coach himself and a 1969 Wartburg graduate who currently coaches the team's running backs, presented the award at the induction ceremony.
“I was honored to be there. It was a pretty formal deal,” Albert said. “It was pretty nice to him there. He joked about it when I got nominated but he was probably my best P.R. guy.”