‘Citywide mission’: Don Fellows taking over Grand Rapids Union football

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The floundering Grand Rapids Union football program has a new head coach, and he’s a big name in West Michigan high school sports.

Don Fellows, who led Grand Rapids Christian through its most successful stretch of football ever and to a state championship, is now the man in charge of the Red Hawks.

Grand Rapids Union hasn’t won a football game since Aug. 28, 2015, when it beat Wyoming Lee. It has won only three games in the last 10 years. During that same stretch, Grand Rapids Christian averaged eight wins per season.

“There is definitely a challenge at all of the places I’ve coached at,” said Fellows, who parted ways with Grand Rapids Christian after last season and whose resume also includes stints at Muskegon High School, Los Angeles Community College and College of the Canyons. “The more I looked into it, the more excited I got. There are some challenges to it, but it’s my 24th year of coaching here, and I’m really excited and really re-energized for this opportunity.”

He’s right that the Red Hawks face challenges. A lot of the student-athletes struggle to get to practice, some because they have jobs because they help their families pay the bills and others because they don’t have transportation.

Fellows is ready to tackle that but said he’ll need the community to help, calling revitalizing the program a “citywide mission.”

“I think it’s a mission for the city. It’s not just football. I think kids are kids and they want to have discipline and they want to have nice things where resources can help you. I think we’re going to have those opportunities for these kids,” he said. “…This is a unique challenge, but you cannot do it without the community and you cannot do it without a staff. And we’re going to have to get kids to buy into showing up to practices. We’re going to have to give them abilities to get there.”

Fellows’ longtime coordinators Eric Ross and Jeremy Fellows are following him to Union.

“I don’t plan on not winning,” Don Fellows said. “I know it sounds arrogant, but our expectation is to come in and win right away. I know that’s a far fetch for a lot of people. … Now, I’m not predicting we’re going to win a state championship by any means, but I do want to bring a winning attitude and winning culture.”

His goal for the upcoming season is to make it to the playoffs.

“If a kid really wants to match our expectations, and they show up and they want to work, you just never know in high school football,” Fellows said.