Former WMU lineman starts business to train, mentor young athletes
February 7, 2019
KALAMAZOO, MI – As an upperclassman and star athlete at Illinois’ Adlai Stevenson High School, Zach Novoselsky found himself wading through the murky waters of college football recruiting.
Without a direct connection to recent Division I football player, Novoselsky and his family were in uncharted territory, as they listened to Big Ten and Mid-American Conferences coaches sell their programs.
“As I was going through the recruiting process, I realized that a lot of the coaches say the same thing, so it’s hard to tell if a coach being genuine and is embracing a family culture,” Novoselsky said.
He eventually picked Western Michigan and was a two-year starter at offensive tackle for the Broncos, before seeing his eligibility expire after the 2018 season.
Now, Novoselsky is using his knowledge of the game and everything that comes with it to help aspiring football players in the Kalamazoo community.
Novoselsky and former WMU running back Leo Ekwoge launched Friday a new business called Athletes Beyond Campus that aims to pass along mentoring, leadership and football training skills from recent college football players to kids between 8 and 18 years old.
While earning his undergrad degree in business management, Novoselsky started talking to his teammates about things that would have eased the transition from high school to college football, and their responses had one thing in common.
“Talking with my teammates, one thing we really missed out on was having someone that’s done it be able to come back and share their knowledge with us,” he said “If you don’t know (a college football player) personally, there’s no avenue like this where you can go to a player that’s just played and learn from him about what to look for or how to go about this and avoid choosing the wrong college or learn about certain missteps in the recruiting process that we never had access to.”
Athletes Beyond Campus overs two primary services to aspiring football players: mentoring/leadership and skills training.
Mentoring serves athletes age 14-18 is done over the phone in 60-minute sessions, and multiple athletes can take part in a single session to lower the per-person rate.
“A group of guys could join, and instead of it being a one-on-one $60 session, it turns into $20 per person,” Novoselsky said. “If you’re telling me as a high schooler, that I could pay $20 to learn from a guy that just went through D-I football at the highest level and pick his brain about leadership and recruiting, I’d be all-in.”
Interested athletes can sign up for mentoring as early as Saturday, but the skills training aspect, which will serve kids age 8-18, isn’t expected to start until spring.
Novoselsky’s organization also offers local high school programs team-based training and leadership sessions, including its Championship Culture package, which includes an hour-long presentation and interviews from key members of the WMU’s 2016 MAC title team speaking about how the Broncos built a championship culture.
In addition to Novoselsky and Ekwoge, seven recent WMU football players currently serve as the coaches at Athletes Beyond Campus, including running back Jamauri Bogan, offensive linemen Curtis Doyle and John Keenoy, tight end Odell Miller, defensive linemen Eric Assoua and Nick Matich and linebacker Caleb Bailey.
“The cool thing about the website is that you can see which guy played your position or which guy you looked up to and train or be mentored by him, which is something that me and my teammates never had when we were going through that stage,” Novoselsky said. “If you really want to play football, there’s a place for you, and the cool thing about the team is that all the guys have different stories.
“You can relate to some of those nine guys on that roster. Everyone has different backstories, and you can read about them and figure out who would be the best fit for you.”
He created the organization’s nine-person staff after gauging his teammates’ interest in helping develop young athletes in the community.
“It started about a year ago when I realized that (former WMU quarterback) Zach Terrell had done some training, and he had a bunch of kids come from all over the country that wanted to learn from him,” Novoselsky said. “I thought, ‘Why can’t other people on the team do this once they graduate because they still have a name in the community, and they still have an urge to give back?’
“I surveyed all the guys that graduated, and they all said they’d love to mentor kids and coach kids, so I asked, ‘Why aren’t you?’
“All the reasons they gave, I put into this website to make it easy for them to connect.”
Somewhere down the line, Novoselsky hopes to expand his organization’s reach throughout Michigan and into his home state of Illinois, but right now, he’s focusing on building players in Kalamazoo because it’s the city that helped build him up to a successful Division I football player.
“I think Kalamazoo is a place where ‘family’ is the big word,” he said. “I felt that the first day I walked on campus that I came into a family. I’ve made lifelong friends and lifelong relationships I know I’ll have forever because they are family.
“One of the reasons why I’ve made this company here is that all the other guys I’ve been around have said, ‘I want to give back to the community and help the next generation.’
“I’m just providing a platform where they can do that on a large scale.”