Frosty's coaching philosophy has been shaped by his playing career. In high school and college, he says, he played for traditional, troglodyte-type coaches and vowed that if he ever entered the profession, he would find another method. "I always said I wanted to coach the way I would have wanted my sons or daughters to be coached," he says. "I ended up coaching my sons and grandsons, so I had to put my money where my mouth was."
He started by redefining success. "In this country the only way we knew how to [succeed] was to be Number 1," he says. "That's the way we grew up. America won the war; nobody knew there was another model. There was no real merit to effort if you didn't win."
Frosty encourages his players to avoid the winning-is-everything trap by competing not against their opponent but against their "best selves," the best players they can be. "It's stupid just to play for hardware," says Johnson. "We understand that when we give of ourselves—we call it 'dying to each other'—we get so much more back."
The three-ring binder Frosty gives each player contains innumerable pithy sayings such as PLU magic can perform miracles and The longer we play, the better we get. Empty slogans? Ask the Willamette Bearcats, who in the first round of last year's playoffs led the Lutes 24-7 with 7:17 left, only to lose 28-24.
When a Wartburg College player went down with an injury a week later, the Lutes knelt and prayed for him. "We respect all our opponents, and we want to be gracious to them," says Johnson, "If a guy's hurt, we want him healed." (The Lutes proceeded to pound Wartburg 49-14.)
Says St. John's cornerback Grady McGovern, "When they knock you on your butt, they help you up. They're the classiest team I've played against."
Pacific Lutheran's longest journey was its last, a cross-country trip to Salem, Va., for the Stagg Bowl, Division III's title game. Pregame jitters? The Lutes played tag during warmups and sang The 12 Days of Christmas in the moments before the opening kickoff.
Their opponents were the Rowan Profs from Glassboro, N.J., who had shocked the division a week earlier by snapping the 54-game winning streak of mighty Mount Union 24-17. The Profs were playing in their fifth Stagg Bowl in the '90s but seeking their first win.
Surely they would get that victory against these feel-good kooks from out West. Surely the bigger, stronger team would prevail over the team whose members held hands as they ran off the field. "We don't see anybody getting in the way," Rowan defensive tackle Cornelius White said before the game. Pacific Lutheran, he felt certain, would be "just another team to beat up on."
As White had predicted, the outcome was one-sided. The Profs rushed for minus 63 yards. Their back, Jason Frabassile, fumbled on the initial play from scrimmage—the first of four Rowan turnovers. On the next snap Johnson zipped a 31-yard TD pass to McDevitt, who also caught another scoring pass in the game and who hasn't spent a lot of time second-guessing his decision to transfer. The Profs tied the score at 7-7 but did not score again until they trailed 35-7. The final was 42-13.