Benton Harbor football team receives key to city

Coach Elliot Uzelac receives the Key to Benton Harbor from Mayor Marcus Muhammad. (Courtesy WNDU/Jan. 5, 2016)


BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — The Benton Harbor High School football team that earned national recognition after a breakout season has received a key to the city.

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad awarded first-year head coach Elliot Uzelac the Key to Benton Harbor on Monday, reports WOOD-TV’s NBC-affiliate WNDU-TV.

“I don’t really believe I’m really worthy of this kind of award. The kids did a wonderful job,” said Uzelac. “These young men worked so hard in so many different ways and that’s why I’m making sure they have this award. It’s really more for them then it is for me.”

Uzelac, 74, came out of retirement to coach the Benton Harbor High School football team which had lost 68 of its last 72 games. The Tigers didn’t have a winning season since 1989 and had never made it to the playoffs in school history.

Uzelac previously held head coaching jobs at Navy and Western Michigan University, was an assistant coach for Bo Schembechler at Michigan in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and had a stint with Cleveland Browns in the NFL.

Uzelac not only worked with the Benton Harbor High School football team to improve their skills on the field, he also found them jobs that wouldn’t interfere with practice since many of the players helped supplement their family’s income. A group of moms also stepped in to make sure that the players had food to eat.

On Oct. 30, 2015, history was made when the Tigers won their first playoff game against Dowagiac, 28-7. However, their remarkable season came to an end when they fell to Zeeland West in the district championship game.  

In November, Good Morning America created a $10,000 scholarship in Uzelac’s name. They also sent the entire team to Disney World.

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