This is a guest post from T.J. McCreight. McCreight has worked as a scout, director of pro personnel, director of college scouting, and a player personnel executive across multiple NFL teams.
When I was the Director of Player Personnel for the Cleveland Browns in the mid-2000s, we honored a few local high school football coaches during one game in the regular season. Two of the coaches are Cleveland legends, Chuck ‘Chico’ Kyle from St. Ignatius, and Tedd Ginn Sr. from Glenville High. As the two iconic coaches were waiting to go on to the field, they were having a conversation with each other, and I just happened to be in the area and did some eavesdropping. Were they talking about pass protections or route concepts? Were they rehashing one of the many playoff games their schools played against each other? No. They were talking about their families.
Coach Kyle was glowing about his daughters, one of whom is a local news reporter. He was talking about his wife and laughing about his grandchildren’s antics. Coach Ginn was talking with pride about his son, Teddy Jr., and what a “good young man he is”. He wasn’t bragging about Teddy being an All-American at Ohio State or a first-round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins, he was telling Chico how proud he was of the man Teddy became. They went on to discuss the importance of character, hard work, commitment, and team building. These two ‘bitter’ rivals spoke with each other with ultimate respect. They listened more than spoke, and they each showed me, in just a few minutes, why they were two of the most successful high school coaches in Ohio history. I learned more in those ten minutes than I did in any football clinic I ever attended.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon was a great high school football player at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the point guard on a state championship basketball team, and a district champion hurdler on the track team. Gannon went on to the University of Louisville, but his career ended early after he sustained an injury. Rather than playing, he started his coaching career at Louisville and decided to make it his career.
When I watched the Arizona Cardinals play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, I thought I was watching a St. Ignatius High School game at Byers Field – St. Ignatius does not have its own stadium and must play their games at the city field in Parma. Watching the game, Gannon reminded me of Chico Kyle: part enthusiasm and a whole lot of intellectual. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, they will outsmart their opponents, and they play full throttle until the final whistle. This football team is not going to make the playoffs this season, but they played as if it were a playoff game in January.
I saw a Cardinal team that, after giving up a 99-yard pick-six, did not drop their head and sulk. Nothing is more demoralizing than a pick-six, but Gannon would not allow that to beat them. Quarterback Kyler Murray, other than that interception, was outstanding. He was calm, decisive, and showed leadership. Running back James Conner kept pounding the Eagle defense and churned out 128 yards. Greg Dortch made big plays, and the defense came up big in big moments.
Teams take on the personality of their head coach, and this is certainly the case in Arizona.
The best coaches make the game fun for the players. The best coaches prepare the players for every circumstance that can happen, the best coaches develop players, and the best coaches can figure out how to fix problems during the game. Coach Ginn does that, Coach Kyle did that, and Coach Gannon learned to do that from his high school football coach.
If you had a high school coach or teacher that influenced you, be thankful. The people that mold teenagers at such a critical time are some of the most valuable people we have in our communities. I am sure that Jonathan Gannon would agree.
To name some of the NFL players that Coach Kyle and Coach Ginn influenced in their careers: Jacob Bell, LeCharles Bentley, Liam Eichenberg, Tommy Eichenberg, Dan Fox, Anthony Gonzalez, Drew Haddad, Chris Hovan, Brian Hoyer, Dre’Mont Jones, Darian Kinnard, Scott Mutryn, Dan O’Leary, Dave Ragone, Jake Ryan, Bryant Browning, Christian Bryant, Coby Bryant, Frank Clark, Davon Coleman, Jayrone Elliott, Donnie Fletcher, Ted Ginn Jr., Justin Hardee, Willie Henry, Jermale Hines, Cardale Jones, Marshon Lattimore, Antwaun Molden, Jonathan Newsome, Devine Redding, Troy Smith, Donte Whitner, Lindsey Witten, Pierre Woods, Chris Worley, Shane Wynn, and Curtis Young. Some are still playing, some are retired. Some have won Super Bowls, one has won a Heisman Trophy, some were leaders on National Championship teams, some were in Congress, and some are teachers and coaches. Most are community leaders.
Thank you, Chico and Ted.