A tribute to Caesar Rodney coach Mike Schonewolf

Mike Schoenwolf
Mike Schonewolf

Mentor. Role model. Hard worker. Tough but honest. Preparer of young men for life’s challenges.

Those are just a few of the ways to describe Mike Schonewolf, former football coach and athletic director at Caesar Rodney High School.

Affectionately called Schoney by friends and colleagues, he passed away suddenly Tuesday night at his home in Florida. His wife, Kris, announced his loss on social media Wednesday. He was 63 years old.

Schonewolf graduated in 1979 from the University of Delaware, where he was a punter and back-up quarterback on Tubby Raymond’s ’79 National Championship team.

He spent the next few years coaching at Marietta College in Ohio. He also coached running backs and wide receivers at Princeton University.

But the majority of his career was at Caesar Rodney, where he was an assistant on John Coveleski’s staff along with John Newman, Dave Manwiller, Jim Fennemore and Brian Berns. It was one of the most successful coaching staffs in Henlopen history.

Schonewolf also assisted Newman with the baseball team, was athletic director for 10 years and took over as football head coach from 2006-2014, guiding the Riders to six playoff appearances, four conference titles and a state championship in 2008. He retired from the school in 2015. 

That 2008 team included Duron Harmon.

“He had a significant impact on my life,” Harmon said. “Coach pulled me aside my sophomore year and told me I had the potential to play in a Division 1 program if I continued to work hard and improve. I took that as a challenge and with coach’s help, we conquered that challenge and more.”

Harmon went to Rutgers University and then played for the Super Bowl New England Patriots. He’s now a safety for the Detroit Lions.

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, superintendent of Caesar Rodney schools, said, “One could not ask for a better person, mentor or role model for our student-athletes.”

Schonewolf’s shocked colleagues echoed those sentiments.

“Coach was a great man. I will miss him dearly,” said Hodgson coach Frank Moffett, a CR graduate.

Former Rider and Milford coach Shaun Strickland said he was devastated.

“Thank you, Mike Schonewolf, for everything you have ever done for me and taught me,” he said. “You gave me a chance, and you believed in me as a young coach. I am forever in your debt!”

Good friend and colleague John Newman coached football and baseball with Schoney.

“We spent a lot of time together,” he said. “The thing I remember most about him is that he never let any problem or challenge get in the way. He’d try to find a way to get things done.

“He was one of those guys who could have coached anything. He had a good relationship with kids. He could get them to make themselves better and believe in things.”

Current Caesar Rodney coaches Dan Candeloro and Brian Berns echoed those sentiments and said they are heart-broken at the loss. Berns said when he called Schoney a few short weeks ago with a football question, Schoenwolf put down his golf clubs to talk it over with him.

Schonewolf had this to say about his years at CR: “I’ve treasured most the people –- administrators, coaches and more importantly those student-athletes. Those were relationships near and dear to my experience at CR. Those are the things I will miss the most.”

On a personal note, Schoenwolf was always accommodating to me when I taped him for interviews in that small office at Caesar Rodney High School. He was, as many said, a tough man but honest and a great motivator.

Loving husband. Father of 4. Coach. Friend. Mentor for student-athletes and others.

Mike Schonewolf. Gone too soon.

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