By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published May 17, 2012 at 11:00 AM

This year marks a milestone of sorts for Milwaukee Mustangs head coach Bob Landsee. The Michigan native first came to Wisconsin as a freshman offensive lineman for the Wisconsin Badgers in 1982, and while playing and coaching career have taken all over the country, this state has truly become home.

In his 30 years in football in Wisconsin, the Michigan native has experienced the highs of winning championships to the lows associated with injury. He has started a family here, and almost died here. Through it all, he's leaned on his family, his faith, and the game he loves. caught up with Landsee after a Mustangs practice in Brookfield, where he talks about life, death, playing for Buddy Ryan and the most important contract he ever signed. You played for the Badgers for four years, from 1982 to 1985. The 1984 team finished 7-4-1 and played in a bowl game and wound up sending 16 players to the NFL, including three first round draft picks. Do you look back and wonder if that team underachieved?

Bob Landsee: I blew my knee out in '84. It was the sixth game of the year against Illinois and they were ranked in the top five and number one in the Big Ten and we had them right there at Camp Randall. It was a great game. Randy Wright threw an interception and instead of me just going and tackling the guy I decided to pick him up and tried to body slam him on the back of his head and one of our receivers came in and ducked his head and hit me with my weight and this linebacker's weight on it.

When Wisconsin (won) its first Rose Bowl victory (over UCLA) in '94, two old teammates were sitting by us and one of them was in the NFL – and he had some tears in his eyes. He said 'This should've been us.' I said 'You know what, all things gotta go in the right direction.' That year we beat Ohio State, we beat Purdue, Michigan, all in the same year, then we lose to Minnesota, tie Iowa, things that should never have happened. But, it is what it is. Things have to go right.

OMC: In 1986, the Philadelphia Eagles draft you under first-year coach Buddy Ryan, who was just coming off a Super Bowl season with the Chicago Bears. Your draft class on that team included Keith Byars, Anthony Toney, Clyde Simmons and Seth Joyner.

BL: What a great class. But, the big issue was Buddy Ryan. He knew who he wanted. This guy is a – I don't know how I'm going to put it – an egotistical guy. And no matter what somebody else thought of somebody, he was drafting him. I'll be honest with you – he hit it pretty good on the head there. There are some pretty successful people that he had.

OMC: So what happened there – you look at that team with all that young talent, from Randall Cunningham to Reggie White – yet it never clicked fully?

BL: The problem became we didn't have a quarterback. My rookie year (in 1986) I snapped to three different people in the same series. On first down it was 'Jaws' (Ron Jaworski), second down was Matt Cavenaugh, now the quarterbacks coach for the Jets, and then Cunningham on third down. Buddy thought that was better because he could scramble. It became a defense-oriented thing.

He used to make us do the old 'burps', it's what they called them, up-down's. He made professional lineman do 50 of them every day just because he said we were nothing but fat people who kill grass – that's Buddy. And, hey, it worked for him for a while. But it's that one statement all the time – 'What if?' What if. What if is the right place at the right time with the right people.

OMC: You were on the Eagles team in 1988 that lost to the Chicago Bears in the famous "Fog Bowl" at Soldier Field?

BL: I got that chance to go (to the playoffs) and it was a pay kickup for me. It's funny. For me, it was a pay increase. For every other player other than the rookies who weren't the first pick it was a pay cut. So we were happy. It is what it is. It was a good time.

OMC: So in 1989, your fourth year with the Eagles, you started all four preseason games and your career looked like it was on the uptick. Then, you went in for what was supposed to be a routine cleanup of your knee. It turned out to be much more than that once they got in there.

BL: They described it to me as rice coming out of my knee.

OMC: The operation wound up ending your career?

BL: In some senses it was probably a good thing. That's what's going on today. It's the aura, being a starter in the NFL, and then all of a sudden it's done. That's the shock that's going through a lot of these guy's minds. I think, personally, they talk about a career after your football career, that's just paint overlaying it. How about starting to tell people what you're going to feel? If you've never gone through anxiety or depression, you don't know what the heck is going on. You're like, what the hell is happening? That's where the NFL Players Association needs to take over and really start to help educate these guys.

OMC: You started coaching right away though, the year you were on injured reserved at the University of Wisconsin-Osh Kosh. You had said you always wanted to do it – did it hook you then?

BL: Absolutely. I started there and it was tremendous. I was 26 when I started there and there were guys that were seniors that were 21 and they're guys I still hear from today. I wasn't that much older than them. I enjoyed, it was great, and l knew long term I was going to become a coach.

OMC: Your life changed yet again with another medical issue in 1993.

BL: I had a brain aneurysm. I almost died. It took 11 days to find a doctor to even touch me. The front left part of my brain was basically destroyed. I lost short term memory and all that. And at that point in my life I'm like 'What's going on, what am I going to do?' I had taken a job down in the UFL with Boyd Dowler and Steve Spurrier, so I was sort of lost in my life. This is how I know what these feelings are. I had started a business (Watt Savers, Inc.), did well, sold the company, and then had the aneurysm. So I hadn't felt that (depression). I was competing with large, fortune 500 companies and I was beating them. So the job that I had was a competition with the big companies. That brought my competitive spirit to the table, my ability to communicate, ability to engineer. That kept that there. When that was gone when I had the aneurysm, I tell you what, those were long, tough days. Thank God for my wife (Sharon) and some great doctor friends. They got me through it. Some people like to say to me I wasn't fully all-there to begin with so, but I've been fortunate. I'm glad to be alive. When I see what guys are going through, it's sad. And I'm not taking anything away from the NFL. The NFL is a wonderful game, but what people have got to remember it's like one coach said, it's 'Not For Long' and you just never know when that time is coming and you've got to be prepared.

OMC: So you have one medical experience that doesn't go so well as it ends your playing career. Yet on the other hand, you find doctors that save your life.

BL: I'm not a guy that stands atop a box and talks about Christianity and all that stuff, but I will say this – God gives to only those who can handle it. My mother was very staunch in that belief. She used to say 'God gives for a reason. It's not like He just found us – he gave it to you for a reason.' I firmly believe that still today, so when you go through tough times He tells you what's going on. It's not your choice. You're either going to make it through it and be strong, or you're going to wilt away, and He'll measure that by what He thinks measuring is, not by what I feel. Through many days of serious pain and being lost in space – they cut a nerve in my left eye so I couldn't use it – so I spent many, many months on a dark house with the shades pulled. At that point we had a nine month old baby and a 3-year-old, so it was interesting. My 3-year-old started to read to me. But, you know what, it happens.

OMC: Once you got back to coaching, you've traveled around the Midwest, coaching in the with the Milwaukee Iron, then with Toronto and in Indianapolis before moving to Green Bay with an afl2 franchise. Why come back to Milwaukee?

BL: Being closer to home. It's only an hour and 15 minutes from Madison. I promised my daughter after Indianapolis and when I took the Green Bay job that daddy would never, ever leave the state again to coach. She was at that time, nine, 10, she actually wrote a contract and made me sign it – that daddy wouldn't do that until she graduated high school, that daddy would never leave the state. And I stayed by it. A couple of jobs came up that I didn't tell the truth as to why I couldn't leave, but in all reality kids bring you perspective in life, the way they look at it. You're Dad. My little one convinced me that was the thing to do and rightfully so. Wisconsin is a great place for football. It was Milwaukee, it's an Arena 1 job, we played on national TV (on the NFL Network). There's a lot of great things.

OMC: Talk about what we expect with the Mustangs going forward here, over these last 10 games

BL: We want to be better. If you have to look at it like this. There are two conferences. There are two winners of those conferences, and then the next two best records (make the playoffs). If you look at all these records ... there is a long way to go yet. We have to remember that, the players have to remember that. It's going to be fine if they decide to listen, keep their focus, do what they're told to do, I think they'll be amazed. Amazed. It's just got to start this week though. We're running out of the excuse 'My bad.' Now it's time to succeed."

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.