Benton Harbor High School in Benton Harbor, Michigan, had not had a winning football season since 1989. That all changed when coach Elliot Uzelac came into the picture and became the head coach of the Tigers.
His wife, Wendy, told "Good Morning America" how it happened.
"He'd been retired for a couple of years ... and I said, 'Elliott, I think you're kind of bored.' And he said, 'Yes, a little bit.'"
She told him about Benton Harbor.
"And I said go to Benton Harbor, they don't have anybody and they need somebody," she said.
She was right.
After years as a successful college football coach, Uzelac came out of retirement in July to coach the Tigers for a salary of only $1 per year.
He turned around the losing team and touched the lives of the students in the troubled district.
"We needed him and he needed us. It was a perfect fit -- made in heaven," said Ruth Harvey, the team's equipment manager.
Jeremy Burrell, a football player, remembers Uzelac's encouraging words. The head coach told the team it had lots of work to do.
"'We're going to get it done,'" Burrell said, recalling Uzelac's words.
Percy Brown has his own memories about the coach.
"Next game he said, 'You all are going to win,' and we won ... and we just kept winning," Brown said.
The team made it to the playoffs. In the first game, Brown scored three touchdowns.
"The team had fun. We couldn't believe it ... the crowd was crazy," Brown said.
Harvey said a lot of the players on the team come from single parent homes and many have to help their parents. She says the coach has a passion for what he does and an unconditional love for his players.
Brown said the coach motivated him to do better.
"He said he's going to get me in college no matter what it takes," Brown said. "The team is a team now ... we've got respect. He (respects) us, we respect him and he's just opening doors for us."
Burrell shares the general admiration for the coach.
"He's like a grandfather. I'd probably do anything for that man, because (of) the things he did for me and my team," Burrell said. "Thank you for coming to Benton Harbor High School and teaching us and being with us and sticking with us."
And today the players and other members of the school’s student body and faculty gathered to give Uzelac the surprise of a lifetime.
The coach entered the school’s gym under the impression that there was a pep rally this morning, but he had no idea it was actually in honor of him, as a way for the school to give him a huge surprise “thank you” live on “GMA.”
“Oh man. Oh man,” a stunned Uzelac said as he walked into the gym rubbing his forehead in disbelief. “I can’t believe this. Unbelievable.”
But the pep rally honoring the beloved coach wasn’t the only surprise.
ABC News’ T.J. Holmes announced that the RetailMeNot app, as part of its new “Save It Forward” program, is giving a $10,000 scholarship to a Benton Harbor graduate. The scholarship will be called “The Coach Uzelac Scholarship.”
“I thank you for this. This will be great for our student athletes,” said Uzelac. “And I hope this encourages all the students at Benton Harbor High School because this is a great place with a lot of great people, and we are the Harbor. No doubt about it.”
The 40 players on the team also got a huge surprise, though. For all their hard work on and off the field, Uzelac’s football players learned they were going on an all-expenses-paid trip toWalt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
The students erupted in cheers, screaming and jumping up down in excitement.
“I’m going to Disney World,” one player yelled.
“This means so much to these young men,” said Uzelac. “I’ll never forget this.”
View the entire story online via ABC News here.
Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today voted in support of H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015. Upton was joined by a majority of his House colleagues as the legislation advanced by a veto-proof 289-137 margin.
“This is about our national security and our first priority must be protecting the American people,” said Upton. “In this current climate of terrorism, no errors can be made and our humanitarian efforts must be balanced with keeping our country safe. This straightforward legislation offers a smart path forward as we continue working to combat the very real threat of terrorism both here at home and abroad.”
The American SAFE Act would put a pause on admission of refugees from Iraq and Syria and require an extensive background check for every refugee to ensure they are not a security threat to the United States. A refugee will not be admitted if the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) cannot certify if a background investigation was sufficient. Additionally, the legislation requires the Department of Homeland Security to report to Congress on the number of refugees certified and not certified.Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today joined all of his colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in voting to advance H.R. 1321, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. Upton is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan legislation with Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey.
“Microbeads may be tiny plastic – but they are big time pollution, especially for our Great Lakes," said Upton, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “Today’s unanimous approval of this critical bipartisan bill will protect Lake Michigan and all of our waters from these pesky pieces of plastic. On their own, microbeads are nearly invisible, but once they’ve been flushed down the drain is where the trouble begins. Microbeads are causing mega-problems, and we’re going to fix it.”
“The Alliance for the Great Lakes supports the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015,” said Molly M. Flanagan, Vice President of Policy at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “This legislation will protect the Great Lakes from plastic microbeads that are fouling our waters and contaminating fish. Thank you to Congressmen Pallone and Upton for their leadership in solving this national problem.”
H.R. 1321 will ban the use of microbeads in rinse off cosmetic products. The ban on manufacturing microbeads will begin on July 1, 2017, the ban manufacturing over-the-counter drugs and on sales of cosmetics with microbeads will begin on July 1, 2018, and the ban on sales of over-the-counter drugs containing microbeads will begin July 1, 2019.
H.R. 1321 is expected to be considered on the House floor in the near future.Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, joined the majority of his House colleagues in voting to advance four bipartisan pieces of legislation designed to improve the lives of veterans, and their families.
“We shouldn’t just keep our brave veterans in mind on Veterans Day, we should be working to improve their lives every single day,” said Upton. “Here in the House of Representatives – that’s exactly what we’re committed to doing. By advancing these common-sense bipartisan bills we’re making it easier for veterans to get jobs, own small businesses, and help their families. I can’t think of anything more important.”
The four bipartisan pieces of legislation advanced:
H.R. 1694, the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act of 2015, which would improve contracting opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses.
H.R. 3114, To provide funds to the Army Corps of Engineers to hire veterans and members of the Armed Forces to assist the Corps with curation and historic preservation activities.
H.R. 1338, the Dignified Interment of Our Veterans Act of 2015, which would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a study related to the burial of unclaimed remains of veterans in national cemeteries.
H.R. 1384, the Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act, which would recognize the service of certain persons in reserve units by honoring them as veterans.
To learn more about Upton’s work to help our veterans, please click here.
Additionally, veterans in Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District in need of service are urged to contact Chad Dillon at Upton’s Kalamazoo District Office - (269) 385-0039.Read More
Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and his colleagues on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy hosted a bipartisan briefing today titled “Overview of CERCLA Implementation.”
Upton was joined by Bruce Merchant, former public services director for the City of Kalamazoo and current consultant for the Allied Site cleanup project, for the bipartisan briefing. Merchant answered questions from members of Congress and spoke about the role local governments can play in Superfund cleanups, specifically the role the City of Kalamazoo has played in the Kalamazoo River Superfund site.
“Today’s bipartisan briefing was highly informative and I was happy to have a respected local leader like Bruce Merchant able to attend so he could provide a Southwest Michigan perspective to this national issue,” said Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Today’s briefing was another step towards ensuring states and local stakeholders continue to have a strong voice in Superfund decisions.”
“I was glad to be able to join today’s bipartisan briefing so that I could give a local lay-of-the-land on CERCLA and Superfund issues,” said Merchant. “The City of Kalamazoo and its residents continue to play a strong role in moving the ball forward at the Kalamazoo River Superfund site and ensuring our voices are being heard in what can be a complex decision-making process. I want to thank Congressman Upton for the invitation and for his continued involvement in the Kalamazoo River Superfund efforts.”
CERCLA – Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act – was enacted in 1980. States are encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to participate in the Superfund process and States are formally involved in almost all phases of Superfund decision-making.
To learn more about Upton’s involvement in the Kalamazoo River Superfund site, please click here.Read More
Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today issued the following statement on news Perrigo Co. shareholders have rejected the hostile takeover by Mylan NV:
“Kudos to the round-the-clock, round-the-world efforts by the Perrigo team,” Upton said. "This a relief and much-deserved win for the hard working men and women of the Allegan community. Thankfully shareholders sided with the local community. The stockholders were convinced that the solid management and growth were far better than being bought off in a hostile takeover resulting in more job losses in the United States and Michigan.”Read More
ST. JOSEPH, MI – Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today released the following statement on the occasion of Veterans Day.
“We owe all who have served – both past and present – an enormous debt of gratitude,” said Upton. “While our veterans come from many different backgrounds and traveled diverse paths, when they were called upon – they came together and fought for us and one another as brothers and sisters in arms. They represent the best in us as Americans. We also remember our troops serving today, their courage and devotion continue to inspire us. We remain forever grateful to all of our veterans who defended our homeland in times of peace and war. We truly remain the land of the free because of our brave.”Read More
Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan has instilled in me a deep appreciation for the beauty of our wildlife and natural resources. I spent springs and summers swimming in the lake, autumn hiking trails around Southwest Michigan, and winters building snow forts and playing pick-up hockey on frozen ponds. Anyone who grew up in Michigan, or in the Great Lakes region, can probably relate to these idyllic pastimes.
That is why protecting and preserving our Great Lakes for future generations to enjoy is so important to me.
As an active member of the Great Lakes Caucus, I have an extensive record of working in a bipartisan manner to protect the Great Lakes watershed and preserve the natural beauty for future generations.
Improving pipeline safety is integral to the health of our Great Lakes. In 2011, I reached across the aisle to work with John Dingell, a Democrat from outside Detroit, to craft the bipartisan Pipeline Infrastructure and Community Protection Act, which ensures vital updates and improvements are made in U.S. pipeline safety. The agreement was signed into law by President Obama in 2012. Now we are looking to improve this law to make it even better and safer.
I am an original cosponsor of the Asian Carp Prevention Act, which directs the Secretary of Army to coordinate and lead federal actions to prevent the spread of Asian Carp in the Great Lakes, and importantly, its tributaries.
One issue that recently caught my attention are synthetic plastic microbeads. These are pesky bits of plastic used in personal care products such as face wash, soap, and toothpaste. They can slip through water treatment systems and end up in local streams, rivers, and large bodies of water like the Great Lakes.
In March, I joined Democrat Frank Pallone of New Jersey in sponsoring legislation that would prohibit the sale of personal care products that contain microbeads. I expect this bipartisan legislation to reach the House of Representatives in the next couple months.
I recently signed on as a cosponsor of bipartisan legislation that will help protect our Great Lakes by authorizing the Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for Fiscal Year 2016 – Fiscal Year 2020. The initiative targets projects such as the remediation of toxic substances, the prevention and control of invasive species like Asian Carp, protects the restoration of near-shore health, and works to restore Great Lakes habitat and wildlife.
Our Great Lakes really are the lifeline of Southwest Michigan, and communities across the region. Working in a bipartisan manner I know that we can uphold the natural beauty so that our kids and grandkids can enjoy the exquisite beauty of the Great Lakes.
Just like we did.Read online via the Kalamazoo Gazette here. Read More
ST. JOSEPH, MI – Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today formally announced the addition of Mike Ryan to his St. Joseph/Benton Harbor District Office as District Representative/Project Coordinator.
“I am pleased that Mike Ryan decided to join our team,” said Upton, who is also chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “He brings a wealth of knowledge that will help us assist folks in Southwest Michigan in working with the federal government. I firmly believe this, and making sure our constituent voices are heard, remain the most important responsibilities of a Member of Congress.”
Ryan, a long-time leader in the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor community, most recently served as Vice President and Trust Officer for Horizon Trust and Investment Management, a community bank that serves Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. He is also a board member of both the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation and Kiwanis Club of St. Joseph; founder and race director of the Steelhead Triathlon and is also involved with the Samaritan Counseling Center and the Cornerstone Alliance. He is the father of three grown children and proud grandfather of two.
Upton represents Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District – Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Van Buren counties and most of Allegan County. The constituent service offices provide assistance and resources to all Southwest Michigan residents and businesses in dealing with the federal government, including expediting a needed Social Security benefit or presenting overdue service medals to one of our brave veterans. The constituent service offices are located at 720 Main St. in St. Joseph and 157 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Ste. 180, in Kalamazoo.
To find out more about how these offices can help, please visit: upton.house.govRead More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, today issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to advance S. 1356, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA Conference Report that previously had passed the House and Senate was adjusted to match the spending levels set forth in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 but retains the policies as passed by Congress.
“The NDAA was a bipartisan process from the start and I’m glad to see it moving forward, again, with all due speed,” said Upton. “President Obama should sign it into law without further delay. Our military, their families, and our veterans deserve nothing less.”
Last week, Upton joined fellow West Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga in penning an op-ed for the Holland Sentinel where they outlined their opposition to President Obama vetoing the bipartisan legislation.Read More
2183 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Congressman Fred Upton (MI-06) is proud to represent the commonsense values of southwest Michigan. In 2010, Fred was selected by his House colleagues to serve as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over matters concerning energy, healthcare, the environment, telecommunications, commerce, manufacturing, and trade, as well as oversight and investigations.
Prior to his election to Congress, Fred worked for President Ronald Reagan in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While at OMB, he learned from President Reagan’s example that it does not matter who gets the credit, as long as the job gets done.
Fred has a well-earned reputation for getting things done in Washington and at home in southwest Michigan. The South Bend Tribune writes that Fred “attacks government spending and wants tax cuts retained and the budget balanced.” Fred’s hometown paper, The Herald Palladium, praises Fred as someone who has “consistently fought against out-of-control spending and bigger government” and has “always treated constituent services as a vital part of his job.”
Fred’s top priorities are job creation and economic growth in southwest Michigan.
Fred strongly supports an “all of the above” energy strategy that puts a greater emphasis on domestic energy production, the advancement of breakthrough technologies, and the development of safe nuclear power. Fred has also been a leading opponent of overreaching federal regulations that stifle economic growth, harm jobs, and raise energy costs for Michigan families and businesses.
Fred values our constitutional system of government checks and balances. Fred is focused on ensuring the federal government remains limited, transparent, and accountable, as our Founding Fathers intended. As Energy and Commerce Chairman, Fred has led the over-year-long investigation of Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar company that was the recipient of a half-billion dollar Department of Energy loan guarantee.
Fred has also worked to increase the deployment of telecommunications services as well as ensure that free speech and private innovation remain the hallmarks of this industry by opposing needless regulation. Fred helped oversee the successful transition from analog to digital broadcasting – one of the top priorities of the 9-11 Commission. Fred has also worked to guarantee that our children are protected from online predators and indecent material.
Fred has pushed for a greater emphasis on biomedical research to improve the public health. As Energy and Commerce Chairman, one of Fred’s top priorities is to repeal the President’s controversial healthcare law and replace it with commonsense, market-based reforms that benefit patients, doctors, and employers.
Fred was born on April 23, 1953 and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan. He and his wife Amey have two children.
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