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Former NFL player Bernard Holsey named head coach of M State Spartans Football team

By Press Release, 11/21/23, 4:30PM CST


M State has drafted former NFL player Bernard Holsey to serve as the new head coach of the Spartans Football team.

Holsey was the Spartans’ Defensive Coordinator this past football season. His new role with the team will take effect Wednesday, December 6.


A former defensive tackle for the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and Washington Redskins (from 1996 to 2007), Holsey has extensive first-hand experience on the professional playing field. He also played college football at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, after lettering in football as a high school student in his home state of Georgia. He has prior coaching experience as a high school football coach in Wittenberg, Wisconsin, where he was also a special education teacher.

Holsey says a “brush with luck” brought him to M State last year, after a reporter who was impressed with his coaching skills connected him with the college, knowing there was an open position with the football team. Since joining the Spartans, Holsey’s approach has been to build relationships with team members and build up the team, to become a connected unit. His goal is to help players achieve a winning mentality and uphold a high standard of student athletics at M State.

“Holsey has demonstrated a commitment to team capacity building and to helping players thrive – both on the field and in the classroom,” says Elise Sturdivant, Vice President of Student Affairs at M State. “He has shown poise, professionalism and a passion for football, he has a wealth of experience, and he is held in high regard by our players, his peers and his fellow coaches.”

M State President Carrie Brimhall adds, “We are excited to see Coach Holsey in this new role, as we watched him form deep relationships with our students this past season and look forward to his expanding leadership of the team.”

Holsey says his days as a college and professional football player, and the life lessons he learned along the way, inform his approach to coaching.

M State introduced Bernard Holsey as new head football coach. PHOTO PROVIDED

“I wasn’t always the best player,” he says. “I never even thought about playing in the NFL until the end of my senior year of college; I didn’t think I had a chance. I was labeled as being too short, too slow, too small to play… But I tested well, and I never gave up. Now, I bring that same mentality and attitude over to my coaching. I expect everyone to give a 100% effort. I’m not one to say, ‘I want you guys to get bigger, better, faster, stronger.’ My mission is to have my players have that winning mentality, in the classroom and out. I want to help young players fulfill their dreams.”

His plan for spring practices is to reinforce game fundamentals, to position the Spartans favorably going into next season.

“Coach Holsey has been at M State only a short amount of time but has already developed an excellent rapport with our student athletes and staff,” says Dave Roberts, Interim Director of Athletics, Campus Life and Housing at M State. “While there is a lot of work to do before the next season, there is already excitement building. The future is bright for Spartan Football.”

Holsey has a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree in sociology from Duke University, where he also earned a certificate in marketing and management and certificates in special education and crisis prevention intervention. Outside of football, he says he’s a laid-back “country boy by nature” who likes the slower pace of small towns and enjoys fishing, drinking coffee on his porch, and taking walks around Fergus Falls.

A member of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities, M State (Minnesota State Community and Technical College) serves more than 6,500 students in credit courses each year in over 70 career and liberal arts programs online and in-person at its campuses in Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead and Wadena. The college also partners with communities to provide workforce development services and other responsive training programs to 500 businesses and 9,000 participants.