Last week we started our series on player development and focused on testing, evaluation, and goal setting. We know there’s a lot of ways to help develop football players and we will certainly talk about those methods. But you have to understand, I’m an old guy with an old school mentality and I still love and believe in the multi sport athlete. Yeah, I’m not crazy about specialization at the high school level but I understand the rational in many cases. I was a multi sport athlete and my son was a three sporter. He played football in the fall, wrestled in the winter, and ran track in the spring. I really like all round athletes on my football team. Okay, we’ve established my preference – now how about one of my favorite stories. In my opinion, this kid represents what hard work, dedication, AND playing other sports through out the year can do for the development of a football player.
They called him Tuna. I don’t know why. His name was James Taylor. I had just graduated from high school one year before. We lived about three blocks from my high school, Woodruff High School in Peoria, IL. I always went over to the practice field on Saturday morning during the football season to watch the freshmen and sophomores play. At 9 a.m. the freshmen team played and at 11 a.m. the sophomores played. The fans would stand along the sidelines and watch the game. I just loved watching high school football and hey, these were my guys, my alma mater.
As I walked behind the freshmen team I noticed one of the bench warmers. It was James and he was standing passively in back of his team away from the action. It was obvious he would NOT get in the game. He was big, but so big he looked like he had trouble moving. I thought he looked like Baby Huey. Baby Huey was an old comic book character from the 50′s and 60′s. He was a big duck with a huge rear end. He was all butt. That’s what this kid looked like as he stood there chewing on his mouthpiece watching the game. I felt sorry for him knowing he couldn’t play and would probably never get in a game. I was right. He rarely played his freshman season and only played the last series of a game if the result was not in doubt. Poor kid, he was terrible.
After football season was over I heard from my brother Danny that James went out for wrestling. Danny was a senior on the wrestling team and was one of the stars. “What a sight that must be”, I thought. Danny said James was not a good wrestler (he had never wrestled before) but he was a really smart, nice kid and worked hard. I didn’t give it much thought. At nearly 300 pounds he wrestled heavyweight, of course, and was on the JV team. I actually saw him win a match and was surprised. He usually got pinned cause he just couldn’t move well. The next fall when I went over to watch the sophomores play football games, I didn’t see James on the sidelines. “Poor kid didn’t go out”, I thought. Just as well, he’d probably just get hurt. Then I noticed a big kid with a huge butt on the field playing defensive tackle. It was James, but his rear end looked a little smaller, slightly slimmed down. He wasn’t very good, but he was playing and he was holding his own. I was impressed; the kid was actually contributing. Good for him. When football was over I went to the wrestling meets to watch my other brother Kenny wrestle. James was not the the starting varsity heavyweight and was still the back up. He was moving better and showing a hint of athleticism. “He sure is a nice kid and really works hard”, my brother told me, “and he’s pushing the starter in practice”. By the end of the season he was emerging as a heavyweight to be reckoned with. In fact, I think he could’ve beaten the senior starter. Man, had he come a long way. The next season I went to the opening Friday night varsity football game. Starting at D tackle for the varsity was James Taylor. He was making plays, the opponents had to double team him, and his butt had slimmed down a little more. He was 6’3″ and weighed 275 lbs. They couldn’t handle him. James made all conference that football season and maybe even special mention all state. I can’t remember all the details. But when wrestling came that winter he was dominant and placed 5th at the Illinois High School state wrestling tournament in his first year of varsity competition. By the way, Illinois is a very good wrestling state. Everyone talked about what a good student and hard worker he was. Yeah, I had heard. His senior year he was an all state football player and got beat by a point in the semis of the state wrestling tournament and finished third. He was a stud. He was all everything.
But there’s even more to the story. James wasn’t finished. He was recruited by the University of Missouri and started at offensive tackle for the Tigers for three years. He was named to the Big Eight all conference team, played in the Blue-Gray all star game, the Senior Bowl, and was named a third team All American. Drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the 2nd round, he had an excellent pro career for four years before hurting his knee. He ended his last season with the Chicago Bears. Moral of the story? Good kids that work hard (and play multi sports) can go a long way. Even kids that weren’t good enough to play their freshman year in high school. Don’t ever give up on a high school kid if he’s willing to work.
Coach L. Albaugh – DBLITY
Speaking of developing players… the staff at Dallas HS, OR is doing an incredible job building great football players. Coach Andy Jackson left the room buzzing after his presentation on Developing An Elite Defense at Practice during the 3-5-3 Clinic 2017. “I’m 100% confident that my team will play better defense next year simply because I saw this presentation.” – Head Coach Nate Albaugh | Champaign Central, IL
Developing An Elite Defense at Practice
This presentation is the game changer among a great video series. It is clear to see that this is where Coach Jackson’s passion lies and they have truly made a difference in their defense simply from their practice style and philosophies. Find out why practice is so important and how they use every minute to truly train their young athletes to play the game at a high level. Learn how they drill pursuit, leverage, tackling, and fundamentals. This video includes drill footage. “I am leaving here humbled at how Coach Jackson and his staff are out coaching us.” Nate Albaugh.
53 Minutes - $29.95