Dr. Michael Zauhar has returned to his roots, working as a chiropractor at Lakes Chiropractic in Brainerd, raising a family here with his wife, Jamie, an elementary school teacher in Brainerd, and volunteering as an assistant Brainerd High School football coach for the past several years.
As a Warrior on Don Adamson Field, Dr. Zauhar was a 3 year starter, All Conference for 2 years, Captain and Academic All State as a senior. This quiet excellence moved on to St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, where Dr. Zauhar again was a 3 year starter on the storied teams of the legendary Coach John Gagliardi, including his senior year when he was a pre – season All – American and served as Captain in St. John’s D – III national championship run and (see photograph).
In that championship game at the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, against perennial national powerhouse Mount Union, winner of 3 consecutive D – III titles, with the Purple Raiders at the St. John’s 3 yard line and only down 17 – 6 with plenty of time in the 4th quarter, Cornerback Zauhar stepped in front of a pass in the end zone and sprinted 100 yards (see photograph) into the Mount Union end zone to seal the Johnnie’s national championship (see photograph), 24 – 6, ending Mount Union’s 55 game winning streak, and setting the D – III record for longest TD interception.
Brainerd Warrior Head Coach Ron Stolski wrote to Johnnie Captain Zauhar shortly after the historic win. Note the character of Mike Zauhar that Coach Stolski calls out in his lyrical style, the emphasis on what is important learned on the fields of Brainerd and Collegeville and across America with other young men and women, who Captain Zauhar is and how he exhibits those traits, and then consider what the lesson to be learned is, in the words of the skilled educator, Coach Stolski, and then in the living example Mike Zauhar sets for the rest of us:
And so it comes to this: Third and goal from the three. The nation's mightiest Division III team facing the nation’s mightiest team of local boys from central Minnesota.
Third and goal and, we, all of us who know the game, know this is the game's biggest play; its defining moment. It is we and them; you and him.
The snap; the route; the throw; then you leaping, twisting a bit, coming down with the ball, it nesting in your marvelous hand and, in front of you, one hundred yards of green. One hundred yards to football history.
I cannot imagine what you were thinking then. Perhaps nothing; your athlete's heart and spirit was in command and the finest sprint of your life was here, now, for the taking. Did you know it was over? The nation's mightiest team was done for this day? I did, and this is what I was thinking. “Run Mike, run. But do not fear. They will not catch you.”
And I was so very happy. For you, St. John's, your family, your team, for all of us. Mostly, though, for you. As you approached the fifty, tears welled in my eyes and I thought good for you, kid, truly you've earned this sprint, this moment. You've been preparing, training for this all of your young life. From the outset, following the example of Michael.
Zauhar I and II, traits like hard work, discipline, dedication, sacrifice, loyalty and pride have been your companions summer, fall, winter, spring. Your wish to be good has been accompanied by your willingness to work; your quest to be great blessed with the spirit of sacrifice. Your humility disguises the fierce competitive fire within. It was your moment and you were ready for it!
Now all of us get a chance to share. And we will. For me, my pride stems from knowing you; knowing of your sacrifice, pride and desire. And, knowing full well that you realize our finest moments in football and in life's journey come from the knowledge that we've traveled well, that we've prepared for the sprint and that in the preparation, we've learned all we need to know about the race. We are all smiling today, Mike.
I am so proud of you, of your journey.
And then consider this, from lead by example Captain Zauhar, about playing in Brainerd:
“I really love memories from high school, like walking down the stairs on game night. I think everyone who has played for Coach Stolski can remember that feeling of butterflies when walking down those stairs, heading down to the field, the smell of gunpowder as the fireworks go off during the national anthem, and the packed grandstands on a fall evening.”
Captain – Coach – Doctor Zauhar would not tell you, and you would have to dig it out of archives to find it, that he was a three sport high school athlete, practicing and competing throughout his high school years, yet still excelling academically. His athleticism, developed in the different disciplines at Brainerd High School, made him into the national caliber football player he was at St. John’s, athlete of the year in his senior year in high school and an early inductee into Brainerd’s Athletic Hall of Fame. And contributed in making him into the consummate human being he is today.
All of Dr. Zauhar’s accomplishments are unique, of course, but Dr. Zauhar also is a messenger to each of us, carrying forward the lessons to be learned in life’s trials, tribulations and triumphs, of the value of its quiet and lasting moments and of the readiness and ability within the human spirit to respond to challenges, all gifts from beyond us and never to be confused with “self.”