Friday, August 17, 2012
- by B.B. Branton
Brainerd offensive coordinator Tyrus Ward has a big job to do.
One is to help prepare the 25 or so Panther players for football each Friday night and second is to show them life beyond those Friday night lights.
Tonight, Brainerd hosts Ooltewah at 7:30 p.m. in the 2012 prep football opener for both schools as the Panthers and Owls both advanced to th second round of the TSSAA playoffs a year ago.
Winning on the field is important, but Ward wants to help prepare the players for a world beyond North Moore Road.
“I see myself as a coach, father, pastor, mentor, counselor all rolled into one,” said the former Brainerd all-state quarterback a decade ago.
“My goal is to have these players see beyond North Moore Road and the opportunities that exist for them.”
Winning Football: Brainerd football has seen success in the past – three undefeated seasons in the 1960s with a pair of top 10 state rankings – and recent success with playoff teams four of the past six years with two playoff wins.
Ward knows life can be tough along North Moore, but he and the others on the Brainerd coaching staff are living proof that success beyond the end zone is possible.
“I grew up where these kids now live, succeeded in sports, succeeded in the classroom and am here to help them through their high school years,” Ward stated.
He helps players with summer reading, makes sure they are prepared to take and do well on the ACT tests and also shows them another world.
“I’ll take players to Tennessee football games at Neyland Stadium so they can be there and experience what it’s like to be part of 100,000 cheering fans on Saturday’s.
“It’s one thing to watch the Big Orange on tv, but it’s an entirely different game in person.”
It’s not been easy for Ward to reach his goals of graduating from high school – involved in a near fatal car accident as a junior - and from college.
“The last two-and-a-half years I have gone to work in the morning, attended classes at UTC in the afternoon, coached football in the fall after class, kept up with my homework and have taken care of my family (wife and two kids),” Ward stated.
“No doubt it has been a tough the last few years, but I earned my degree from college earlier this month and I can stand before these players at Brainerd and say I grew up where you live went through tough times and I have done it so there are no excuses.”
Each coach on the Brainerd football staff has a success story, one of which is in sports.
An impressive multi-sport resume abounds among the seven member staff from city, district, state and national titles running the gamut from middle school to high school to national AAU track and Arena Football.
“I have a great group of coaches and wouldn’t trade them for any other staff,” said third year head coach Stanley Jackson.
Let’s start with Coach Jackson … Eleven – count ‘em – 11 Hamilton County track and field championships at Dalewood Middle School ... Jackson’s teams never - repeat, never - lost a dual meet ... Add to that, seven undefeated seasons in basketball at Dalewood and he coached Howard to the 2009 girls state track championship … and Jackson has a championship ring in football as a player at Tennessee Wesleyan.
Tyrus Ward (offensive coordinator) … all-city in basketball … all-state in football … all-American in track … teamed with running back coach Tony Owens to help Brainerd win back-to-back state track championships in 1999 and 2000 … Ward also won the 300 low hurdles in 2001 and a has National Junior Olympic gold medal as he won the national AAU 400 meter hurdles championship for 15-16s.
Antoine Ward (volunteer coach) … with Tyrus and Antoine, Brainerd won district and region basketball titles and was 34-3 their junior year
Tony Owens (running backs coach) … three-time 1,000-yard rusher at Brainerd … member of Brainerd’s state championship track teams in 1999-2000 … played on Tuskegee’s football conference championship team.
Dedric Maffett (defensive line coach) … Howard High (’95) … all-district in baseball … played football at Austin Peay … fullback/linebacker on the American Conference champions (Florida) in the Arena Football League in 2002
Delbert Higgins (special teams coach) …
Marquis Griffin (wide receivers coach) … played football at Brainerd and UT-Martin
contact B.B. Branton at firstname.lastname@example.org