In November of 2010, Allen Feigel was introduced to then-Livonia Churchill head football coach John Filiatraut and assistant coach/head volleyball coach Mark Grenier while attending the Class A MHSAA volleyball Final Four with his wife Lauren, a Churchill alum.
Feigel had graduated in 2007 with a criminal justice degree from Ferris State University, where his level of offensive-line play for the Bulldogs’ football program was so acclaimed, he was invited to an NFL pro day at Central Michigan University, had an encouraging tryout with the Grand Rapids Rampage Arena Football League team and was drafted by the brand-new All-American Football League.
“I remember John and Mark telling me, ‘You played football in college; why don’t you join our coaching staff’,” Feigel reflected. “I told them coaching really wasn’t my thing.”
Change of plans
Fast forward six months to the summer of 2011 when Feigel, a recent graduate of a police academy, was contemplating his future plans.
“I had dreamed of becoming a police officer since I was a little kid, so I was a typical 26-year-old man, trying to decide what path to take,” Feigel recounted. “My wife was kind of pushing me to coach, so I eventually told John I’d do it to give me something to stay busy with in the fall. Now it’s 12, 13 years later and here we are.”
On Wednesday, Feigel was officially named Churchill’s head football coach — the culmination of 12 years of unwavering dedication to the program. He succeeds Bill DeFillippo, who retired following the 2022 season.
“I was happy and relieved,” Feigel said, when asked his immediate feelings once he learned he had been selected for the job. “It was roughly a six-week hiring process, first waiting for the job to be posted, applying and the interview. I thought the district did a thorough job with the entire process. Nothing was ever promised to me and I didn’t expect preferential treatment.”
Feigel said DeFillippo started preparing him for the job close to five years ago.
“Coach Flip allowed me to do things most non-head coaches don’t do,” said Feigel, whose multi-faceted para-eductor job within the Livonia School District includes serving as a liaison between teachers and administration, working with online advanced-placement students and overseeing Churchill’s strength-and-conditioning class. “I was willing to take on a lot of those tasks and responsibilities. People say I wore a lot of hats (for the program) and I did. I’m ready for this and I’ve been preparing for this for quite some time.”
A graduate of Livonia Stevenson High School, Feigel said he quickly embraced Churchill’s culture once he was hired by the district.
Diversity builds strength
“I think our No. 1 strength is diversity,” he said. “I call it Middle Earth. It reminds me a little bit of Ferris State when I was there. There are students from all walks of life, multiple ethnicities. I think it’s a positive for the district, which is really pushing diversity and inclusiveness and Churchill is the most diverse of the three Livonia high schools by far.
“I love the grit. The kids are tough; most of them come from blue-collar families. A lot of the parents are construction workers, police officers, firefighters, nurses. We can be hard on the kids — to a point, obviously — and they respond because they know we’re fair.”
Learning from champions
Feigel has developed a strong friendship with Tony Annese, the head coach of back-to-back NCAA Division II national football champion Ferris State.
“When my hiring became official, one of the first people I texted was Tony,” Feigel said. “It turned out he was texting me at the same time — just a few days before he was going to coach in the Division II national title game.”
Even with his heightened responsibilities at Churchill, Feigel will continue his football coaching gig with the Livonia Junior Athletic League’s Livonia Orioles, the home team for his young sons, Boden and Behren.
“This coming season will be special because it will be the only time I’ll get to coach my sons on the same team until they get to Churchill,” he said. “Boden is two years older than Behren, so he’ll be moving up to tackle after next season while Behren will remain at the flag level.”
The entire Churchill coaching staff will be returning in 2023, Feigel said, “although things could change tomorrow, let alone eight months from now. This is important because continuity is huge.”
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