The coach of “Team Flexo” Has Forever Enabled Others to Succeed & Brought Out the Best in His Players
The bronzed bust of John Madden joined the sculpted facades of fellow NFL coaching greats Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, George Allen and 20 others enshrined in Canton, OH when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
In his acceptance speech, Madden thanked his wife, children and family; Oakland Raiders Owner Al Davis, who named him the team’s head coach when he had just two years of professional coaching experience; friends and colleagues; his agent; even his bus drivers, with whom he spent an enormous amount of time, as he has an extreme aversion to flying.
He thanked all these people for their support, encouragement and help throughout his career, but in that 18-minute speech, there was only one group who he pointed to as the reason why he was on stage, clad in the Hall of Fame’s iconic gold jacket and about to be immortalized as one of the greatest to ever stand on the gridiron.
“I go into the Hall of Fame as a coach,” he said. “I know that I go into the Hall of Fame because of my players and what they did. I’m so proud.”
It is impossible to predict with 100 percent certainty what 2019 FTA Hall of Fame inductee Dave Nieman will say in his acceptance speech, but after talking to players on the teams he has coached—Team Nieman, his wife and three children who he always made time for and put above everything; Team FTA, the Association he has supported since the 1980s and helped steer through an economic recession; “Team Flexo,” the business he expanded from a distributor of B.F. Goodrich into a company befitting of its name All Printing Resources—it is a safe bet he, like John Madden and like any coach worthy of a Hall of Fame induction, will use the opportunity to praise others.
“His viewpoint is, he becomes successful by having the people around him become successful,” says Paul Lancelle, who has been Dave’s employee, FTA/FFTA Board co-chair and close friend in the quarter-century he’s known him, and who the new Hall of Famer joins in FTA’s most illustrious group. “By his nature, he is never one to want to hog that spotlight. He realizes the more that other people receive recognition, the better it is for them, the better it is for him and the better it is for the team.”
Well watch out, Dave, because there’s a Gatorade cooler about to be dumped on your head. Like all great teams, there comes a time when the players step aside and their coach takes a turn in the spotlight. That time is now, as David R. Nieman is enshrined in the Canton of flexography as the 57th member of the FTA Hall of Fame.
Photos courtesy of Eva and Kristina Nieman
From the Minors to the Majors
Al Arbour, Phil Jackson, Joe Torre—Many of the greatest coaches in history were players before they were play-callers. They may be remembered now as always wearing suits and ties, carrying a clipboard or holding a playbook, but there was a time they laced up cleats, threw on pads and smeared eye black on their faces.
That’s also true of Dave.
“He had long, curly hair, and always wore flannel shirts,” says Eva Nieman, his teammate of 44 years and who has had “Nieman” printed on the back of her jersey for the last 39, of the Dave she met in college. The pair met at Western Illinois University, dated for five years and married in 1980.
Before tying the knot and after graduating college, Dave went to work as the strategic business manager at B.F. Goodrich in Akron, OH, where he was responsible for the company’s graphic arts rubber product line. At the time, Eva worked in retail management in Chicago and, disliking the 360 miles between them, asked to be transferred to the same city. Her company OK’d the relocation, and two months after joining Dave in Akron, he was transferred to the Windy City. A few more months apart and one embarrassing phone call later, and Team Nieman was together again in Chicago.
Photos courtesy of Eva and Kristina Nieman
One of the distributors with whom Dave worked was Akron Printing Rubber and, despite its name, it too was located in Chicago. The company focused on the resale of wallcoverings and rubber-coated fabrics. When B.F. Goodrich came to the decision that it would divest Dave’s division, he was put in charge of negotiating the sale. With the sale came the removal of his position, and after deciding he did not want to work at the company to which B.F. Goodrich was selling, Dave negotiated a position at Akron Printing Rubber. He went on to run the company, selling what was B.F. Goodrich’s rubber product line.
Now in a position to lead and steer a company, one of the first people Dave added to his team in the late 1980s was Rick Mix. “I was hired at Akron Printing Rubber maybe two years or so after he took over,” Mix remembers. “One of Dave’s key drivers was to expand the business and get into other products, and one of those products—the reason he brought me on board—was photopolymer plates.”
As the company grew out its range of offerings, it also grew out of its name, no longer based in Akron and selling far more than just Printing Rubber. Dave wanted to keep the same acronym so as not to confuse existing customers, but have those letters stand for words which more accurately described to new customers what they could purchase. And so, in the early 1990s, APR became APR, and Akron Printing Rubber became All Printing Resources.
During that time, Dave followed a path similar to that of a quarterback coach who becomes offensive coordinator and then goes on to the head coaching position, rising from vice president to president to president and CEO, and from partial owner to majority owner to full owner. And amidst all of that, he also earned his MBA from Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.