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Heidelberg’s Brad Shahan marked his return to coaching in 2008 by leading the Lions to the Division I championship and earning coach of the year honor from the European Football Coaches’ Association.

The selection is "… nice, but it’s more a reflection of the program rather than me," said Shahan, suspended from his post last season for what DODDS characterized as physical punishment, assessed in the form of push-ups, of his team. "Sal Katz stepped in and kept it going last year, and all the kids performed. It’s not me."

Shahan, who became the third coach honored by the association in the four-year history of the award, might discount his contribution, but the Lions’ record in winning the D-I title impressed his peers. Heidelberg (6-2) outscored the opposition 226-88 in eight games, with 50 of those 88 points-against coming in nonconference losses — 24-22 to Kaiserslautern and 26-14 at Lakenheath. That leaves opponents scoring just 38 points in the six other games.

The Lions held defending two-time champion Ramstein to just 16 total points in two 2008 victories over the Royals. The second of those conquests, 9-6 in the European title game Nov. 1, gave Shahan his fourth European title in seven final appearances. The Lions, 61-37 in Shahan’s 13 years at the helm, have reached the final the past five years.

Shahan beat out coaches whose teams went unbeaten. Ansbach’s Marcus George, who won coach of the year in 2006 and 2007, led the Cougars to their third consecutive title, the last two in D-II, and their 24th consecutive victory. Greg Blankenship of AFNORTH guided his Lions to an 8-0 record and the D-III crown this year.

George was ineligible for because of rules against three in a row, and there’s more to the selection than the team’s record, according to Wiesbaden’s Steve Jewell, also a candidate.

"Not to take anything away from Greg or Marcus," Jewell said Wednesday by phone, "but (Shahan) took an average group of athletes and made them champions."

Shahan takes issue with the notion that his group was average. "You can measure and weigh a student-athlete, but you cannot tell what kind of heart he has until you go to battle with him," he told the Web site www.hsfootballeurope.net. "… We had such wonderful athletes like D.J. Jenkins, who moved in as a senior lineman and started both ways for us; Chris Cuthbert, who is a great linebacker and scored the winning TD in the championship game; Jimmy Montfluery, who stood in the face of the Ramstein pass rush and threw the winning TD pass; and Chris Frazier, a two-way all-conference player who could run, catch and throw the ball so well, while still being able to defensively shut down All-Europe receivers."

And then there’s the way Shahan stood in there. "Brad is a good candidate," George wrote in a Thursday e-mail. "Much of his support comes from his overcoming the suspension he went through last year. That was a factor that nobody else had to deal with."

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