A new face will be patrolling the sidelines on the gridiron this fall as the face of Mercer Island’s football program.
Ed Slezinger, who was most recently the offensive and defensive coordinator for Redwood High School in Larkspur, California from 2012-2015, was hired to lead the Islanders football program in mid-May. Slezinger replaced Brett Ogata, who accepted the Kentridge Chargers new head football coaching position in April. Slezinger is familiar with the community as he coached with the Mercer Island youth football programs from 2008-2010.
Slezinger, who works full-time running clinical trials in the bio-science department at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, believes football can teach long-lasting life lessons that extend beyond the white lines of the gridiron.
“Football is my passion. Ultimately for me, this is about developing young men of character. We want to prepare them for life outside of football and teach them how to deal with adversity and deal with it well. I would say I’m a players coach. I have been around the game now for over 20 years and have coached at the youth and high school levels. The main focus for me is to keep up with the times, keep up with the game. The game continues to change over the years,” Slezinger said.
Slezinger, who guided the Islanders through spring practices in June, came away impressed with the talent and determination on the roster. Islanders senior quarterback Nikhil Nayar will be one of the top signal callers in the KingCo 3A Division.
“The kid is really both game smart and academically intelligent,” Slezinger said. “He has a really good feel for the field and for the guys around him. He is a good quality leader and we’re going to capitalize on that.”
Slezinger wants to transform the Mercer Island football team into a top flight athletic program on the Island.
“Mercer Island has a fair amount of really strong and really healthy (high school) teams. My ultimate goal is to bring the football program up to the level of the other programs. We really want to make it a desirable program and develop the athletes behind it. I think it is something that is desired by the community. There is an eagerness to see the football program develop like the lacrosse program, basketball program, etc.,” he said.
The Islanders new head football coach is already looking forward to the season opener on the road against West Valley (Yakima) on Sept. 1. West Valley is located 142 miles east of Mercer Island.
“Any opponent can be an opponent of danger and we’re focusing on West Valley right out of the gate. We want to make sure we take care of business just week by week to ensure we are doing the best we can and give ourselves an opportunity to win,” Slezinger said.