Letter from AFM by: John GallupEditor and Publisher
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There is no shortage of coaching awards. Every year, league, state and national coaches of the year honors are awarded to deserving coaches everywhere. It seems that every media organization, including this one, gives out annual accolades to coaches who have led their teams to great success on the field.
But there is one honor for high school coaches that, in our opinion, stands above all others – the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year. According to the NFL, the award is intended to “honor exemplary high school football coaches who display the integrity, achievement, and leadership demonstrated by the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula.” This year was only the third year that the award was presented, but it is destined to become the highest achievement of any high school coach’s career.
We were fortunate to work with this year’s recipient of the Shula award, Steve Specht of St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, on this month’s cover feature which details his innovative “Read Scheme” defense designed to stop the zone read. Specht, who was nominated for the award by one of his former players, defensive end Greg Scruggs of the Seattle Seahawks, accepted the honor from Coach Shula himself during Super Bowl week in New Orleans. We recently asked him about the experience.
AFM: What did it mean to you to win the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year award?
Specht: My first reaction was disbelief. I don’t believe anyone gets into coaching to win awards. Games yes, but when you preach “team” and commitment to a cause bigger than yourself, these awards don’t cross your mind. When I found out Greg Scruggs had nominated me I was very humbled by the fact that he cared enough to think of me. Greg’s story is tremendous in and of itself. He only played one year of high school football (as he spent the first 3 playing the drums in the band) and is now a member of the Seattle Seahawks. The story is great, but the fact that he was impacted enough by St. Xavier High School to nominate his head coach speaks volumes about what it is we try to do teaching young men at the high school level. It was very humbling.
AFM: What was your experience receiving the award in New Orleans during Super Bowl week like?
Meeting Coach Shula was truly an honor. Anytime your name is associated with a hall of famer and a man of impeccable character, you have to step back and try to let it all sink in. I’m not sure it has really sunk in yet. I got to share the experience with Greg Scruggs and Luke Kuechly (another one of my players) who was being honored as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Seeing those two and sharing the Super Bowl experience with them was priceless. I was also reminded why I’m considered a good coach – if you have two NFL players on the same team you should be able to win a few games!
AFM: What advice do you have for other coaches in terms of developing players’ character off the field?
My advice to young coaches is always the same – get into this profession because you want to make a difference in young people’s lives. Don’t get involved because you want to win games or it will always be a job. Focus on the character development and the wins take care of themselves.
As we have often said, the satisfaction that comes from helping young men succeed off the field can match or even outweigh the joy of winning. Steve Specht has accomplished both in his career and he’s a deserving winner of the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year award. Congratulations, Coach!
Editor & Publisher