October 4, 2002 - Modesto Bee: Russia RPCV Jeff Lindstrom was the best football coach in Russia

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Russia RPCV Jeff Lindstrom was the best football coach in Russia

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COLLEGE FOCUS: Returning To Russia*

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COLLEGE FOCUS: Returning To Russia


MJC assistant Jeff Lindstrom hopes to go out a winner Saturday.


October 4, 2002 Posted: 05:35:09 AM PDT


If Modesto Junior College loses on Saturday, assistant football coach Jeff Lindstrom will be banished to Far Eastern Russia.

Well, not exactly.

Lindstrom, who teaches at Vladivostok State University, will be returning to Russia on Sunday morning regardless of what the Pirates do Saturday afternoon at Sierra College.

A win would just make the two-day journey a little easier to stomach.

Lindstrom, a former Pirates wide receiver, coached wide receivers and taught history at MJC from 1996-2000, then jumped into a three-year stint in the Peace Corps with his wife, Shauna.

He went to Vladivostok State (currently unranked in the AP poll) as a teacher and nurtured the Model United Nations (MUN) program in the Russian Far East. This spring, he coordinated the first-ever trip that brought Russian students to San Francisco for the international MUN convention.

And then he discovered his visa had been canceled.

"That was unexpected, and I knew I was going to have to stay here for a while," Lindstrom said. "Coach (Sam Young) knew I was going to be in the area, so he asked me if I wanted to come help out."

The answer was an easy yes, but with deadlines attached. If Lindstrom's visa was not approved, he would be here for the full season. If it was restored, he would remain with the team through this weekend, since a class in Russian history he was teaching at Chapman University was set to end today.

"He knew from the start he'd be leaving as soon as his visa cleared," Young said. "Because of that, I think he's stayed low-key. I don't think he wanted to get too emotionally involved because he knew he was going to leave us."

Signing on for half a season has not been easy. The first hurdle was making sure everyone -- coaches and players -- knew he wasn't in this for the long haul.

"Coach (Jim) Stevens is the defensive backs coach and he was more than willing to let me help," Lindstrom said. "We had to make sure that this was going to be comfortable all around, because we all knew the magic date.

"What I felt most uncomfortable with was the players. I felt bad that I would come in here and teach them techniques and then be out of here. Thank God they were sophomores because they have a lot of confidence already."

Next week, Lindstrom and his wife return to their Russian way of life. It means living in a football vacuum, relying on the Internet to deliver scores from half a world away.

For Lindstrom, that entails staying up well after midnight Sunday, Vladivostok time, waiting for Saturday's MJC score to post.

And occasionally, it means rounding up some friends for a football fix. Yes, Lindstrom brings with him a football or two -- a rarity in that part of the world.

"Whenever I have a bad day I go outside and throw the ball with some American friends," he said. "They get mad at me because I say we're just throwing the ball around, and then I make them run pass routes and we hit each other.

"It's the real frozen tundra there, and its funny to see the students sticking their heads out the windows, because they have no idea what we're doing out there."

But Lindstrom does. He's charting his own life's journey, bringing part of his world to Russia while absorbing more culture than he could ever distribute.

It could be enough that he's bringing football to Vladivostok.

"Yeah, the best football coach in Russia," he said. "That's another title I can add to my resume."

Brian VanderBeek can be reached at 578-2300 or via e-mail at bvanderbeek@modbee.com

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