BEHIND THE MIKE By: Michael Aun
There I was laying on the ground on the St. Cloud High School sidelines after being run over by a referee who was running down the field chasing the Bulldog cornerback who intercepted a wayward Lake Nona pass.
It wasn’t the first time I have been run over. Three years ago five tacklers took me out causing me to fracture three ribs. The problem is… I am also the “Get Back Coach” and it’s my job to keep the players back behind the coach’s box on the sidelines.
When a big play (like an interception) occurs, the kids naturally push the envelope, driving me right in the path of the ref. Ref’s don’t stop or go around. This guy, who played a bit of college ball himself, blindsided me like a Mack truck.
There I was gazing up at the full moon on a beautiful Florida night, asking myself the question, “Why is a man, nearly 70 years old, running up and down a sideline?” The answer is my son Cory is one of the coaches and it gives me some time with him and his players.
Fathers have a special bond with sons, especially those who have all excelled in life as my three have.
It was exactly one week later when we played East River of nearby Orange County. I had the privilege of meeting Collin Drafts, their new Head Football Coach. Collin’s father John was a highly successful athlete and coach in South Carolina for nearly four decades.
His maternal grandmother Tat Drafts practically raised my three sons. She was our pre-school help during their most formative years.
As Sports Editor of the Lexington Dispatch News back in the seventies, I wrote often about John and his brother Brian’s many athletic accomplishments on both the football fields and basketball courts of Lexington High School in my hometown of Lexington, SC.
John Facebooked me to tell me that his son’s team would be facing St. Cloud the following week. John and I shared an uncle, Arthur Mack, who was married to the sister of Collin’s grandmother, Tat Drafts. Arthur was a pretty fair athlete himself earning a baseball scholarship to play at what was then known as Clemson College.
Cory, Jason and Christopher simply called her simply Aunt Tat, making the Drafts family distant kin of some sort by marriage.
When I met Collin for the first time that Friday night, his towering 6-3 stature was only exceeded by his kindness and warmth. One of his fellow coaches, Mike Short, who was formerly a St. Cloud Head Coach, described Collin in very simple terms- “He is a true southern gentleman.”
And he was. St. Cloud bested East River that night 37-30 to cause a three way tie for the District Championship. I went over to hug my new friend and compliment him on all that he accomplished the first year at the school with a team that was in much disarray when he took over.
Because our victory created a three-team playoff, we had to face East River a second time the following Monday evening. This time Collin’s team prevailed 3-0 in a one-quarter shootout by kicking a field goal on the final play of the game. It was a tough loss especially because St. Cloud had a touchdown called back on a controversial referee’s decision which had nothing to do with the touchdown run.
Now it was Collin’s turn to console me as he trotted across the field to find me on the Bulldog sideline. He was even classier in victory. I walked away feeling a warmth in my heart that Central Florida is blessed to have coaches like the ones on the field that night.
Like Collin, St. Cloud Coach Brian Smart took over a team in similar disarray and molded it into a District Champion last year and enjoying a piece of the crown this fall. It’s been a long time since St. Cloud enjoyed that kind of success.
Collin, Brian and Cory don’t coach because of the money. Truth be known… if they were paid by the hour they would be earning around 17 cents per hour to coach football. No, they do it because they love the game they genuinely care about the kids who play it every Friday night.
It is a small world.
(Michael Aun is a syndicated columnist. “Behind the Mike” appears in over 1,500 electronic and print publications in 41 countries around the world. Visit aunline.com for past columns.)