Rogers, Over and Out
By Tim Rogers
Glenville coach focused more on teaching a boy how to turn into a man, than teaching a RB how to turn a corner
CLEVELAND: Ted Ginn Sr. has been down this road before. The scenery is different but the destination remains the same. Always has. Always will.
The destination never changes for Ginn, whose Glenville football team will play Medina Highland in a Division II state semifinal game on Friday in Parma’s Byers Field. And, the destination has nothing to do with hoisting a state championship trophy on a cold December night.
For many coaches the ultimate annual goal is to win a state championship, or at least play as deep into the playoffs as realistically possible. I would go as far as to suggest there are programs out there when failing to reach the state final four translates into a failed season. Ginn simply does not think in those terms.
To Ginn, and coaches like him, football is just a game. It is nothing more than a convenient vehicle that can take you to bigger and better things. In the adult world, football is just another day at the office.
What Ginn strives to teach is life. His intentions are focused more on how a boy can turn into a man more than how a running back can turn the corner. He is more concerned about teaching kids to do the right thing rather than detailing what went wrong with Red-Right 88. He demands his players spend more time studying their school books than their playbooks. That is Ginn’s destination, his purpose, his ultimate goal.
That can be a major challenge at a school like Glenville.
“You ask me if I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win,” said Ginn, whose team will face a Highland team that is as hot as any in the state with victories over Macedonia Nordonia (week 9) and playoff wins over Avon Lake and state-ranked Massillon and Avon. “I won’t be. You see, I’ve already won. I’ve spent the last four months with these kids. In my mind that is winning. And, it’s been that way every year, win or lose. That’s what it’s all about.”
Obviously, he wants to win. Who doesn’t? But, Ginn is content in knowing the sun will still come up the morning after a loss just as it will after a win. He works relentlessly to help his players grasp that concept.
This marks the 12th year since 1999 that Ginn has the Tarblooders in the playoffs, but its first after a two-year absence. Not a massive number of appearances, like a Massillon (21) or Colerain (16) — not to mention the likes of Cincinnati Moeller (32) and its private school brethren St. Ignatius (25) — but more than most. It is the third year the program has reached the state semifinals. He and his teams have celebrated more playoff victories than bemoaned losses. A victory on Friday puts the Tarblooders in the state championship game for the second time since 2009.
While Ginn might downplay the last time his team reached the state finals the Glenville faithful probably still lament. In 2009, the Tarblooders had a 15-8 lead on Hilliard Davidson with single-digit minutes showing on the clock and the Wildcats pinned down pretty deep on their side of the field. But, a missed assignment enabled Davidson quarterback Jake Trubiano to run 73 yards to the Glenville 3-yard line. A touchdown and 2-point conversion with a little more than 60 seconds to play led to an excruciating 16-15 loss.
Yet, all you had to do in order to find out who Ted Ginn is and what he stands for is to revisit his post-game quote.
“Don’t feel sorry for me. It was just a football game,” Ginn said. “Tomorrow morning I’ll still have four kids without a winter coat and one kid who has no place to live. Today was just a football game.”
While Ginn has traveled the road to Stark County before this trip has been different. It was the kind of trip that provides a new perspective.
One year ago Ginn was near death. Last November he spent about one week on life support while his body and soul fought off pancreatic cancer. The American Cancer Society says the five-year survival rate for the disease is 4%. Ginn underwent three surgeries, lost 50 pounds and missed all of last season, yet somehow survived. In April he returned to his job as the executive director of the Ginn Academy, an all-boys school for high-risk students that he founded in 2007 and has made his life’s work.
“God has given me a second chance,” he said. “This whole thing is spiritual based. We sometimes get all caught up in things, get so caught up in our own egos, that we miss out on the blessing of God and the healing that he does. We really fail to realize why we’re all here. We miss out on a whole lot of things in life.”
Ginn, who turned 58 earlier this month, is convinced that his faith in God and his life’s purpose of teaching kids made him one of the fortunate 4%.
“Without question,” he said. “You must have faith and you must have a purpose. I never lost faith in God and my purpose in life is to teach kids about life. Working with kids is what I do. It’s my life’s purpose. Without faith and purpose I would have been a dead man.”
Ginn bristles at the outside perception of the schools from inside the state’s Big Eight inner-cities.
“People say we aren’t disciplined enough to win a state championship, we’re not smart enough to win a state championship, we don’t coach well enough to win a state championship,” he said, his raspy voice picking up speed. “And, when an inner-city school does win a state title or a big game it’s always because we have better athletes. It’s never because we played just as smart or just as disciplined or coached better. It’s always because we had better athletes. Do you understand what I am saying?”
Loud and clear.
Glenville’s chances of winning a state championship increased drastically when the school was reclassified to Division II. That meant it no longer had to face football giants such as St. Ignatius, St. Edward and Mentor in the earlier rounds. Since 2005, Glenville has an 11-3 playoff record against public schools but is 3-3 against private schools.
It makes no difference to Ginn.
“It is still the playoffs and you are still going to be playing good teams,” he said. “We played the big teams all year. Other people might see it differently, but I don’t.”
Four of the 10 teams on Glenville’s schedule – St. Edward, Solon, Cleveland Heights and John Hay — reached the playoffs. He beat three of them with St. Edward inflicting the only loss.
“It was a tough year,” he said of the regular season. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a team with that little experience. What sets this team apart from the others we’ve had is that they were naïve about what was going on around them. They just kept playing. They had no fear of not winning because these kids never had a playoff run.”
When asked if he felt his team would enter Friday’s game as the favorite Ginn said he didn’t know.
“I think we can run the ball and we play pretty good defense,” he said, while acknowledging he knows little of the Hornets other than what he has seen on tape. “I know they’re still playing and that means something.”
Make no mistake. The Tarblooders are loaded. Wide receiver/defensive back Marshon Lattimore, running backs Devine Redding and Davon Anderson, guard Marcelys Jones and safety Erick Smith are all Division I prospects. Lattimore just returned from a trip to Alabama with a visit to Ohio State in the future. Jones has committed to the Buckeyes and Redding to Indiana. Anderson has been contacted by Oregon, Southern Cal, Ohio State and Michigan State with talk of permitting him to play football and track.
Glenville teams have been loaded before and failed to win. While this group may have little playoff experience, their coach knows the terrain. For Ginn, it has been a road well-traveled.