Never A Special Teamer But Still Special

Bearcat Insider is committed to giving its members more than just information about players and recruits. Today we feature Jacob Flint, an assistant strength coach.

In 1942, General George C. Marshall said, "I need an officer for a dangerous mission.  I need a West Point football player."  I certainly understand the General's sentiment of needing a special person, but I'd be just as happy with a walk-on college football player- maybe even a guy like Jake Flint.


Flint joined the Bearcat athletic staff this year as an assistant strength coach, but his story really begins in Shepherd, Michigan where he was a four sport letter winner and two time all-league running back.  But despite the athletic success in high school, only Division III schools came calling, and the 5' 7"/185 pounder thought he had grown tired of the game.  "After I was done with high school football, I thought I was done.  I didn't want to play any more.  I even told my coach that I didn't want any coaches calling me.  I just wanted to focus on school."


Shepard is located about ten minutes from Central Michigan University, and Jake had grown up a Chippewas fan so enrolling at CMU was a no brainer.  But after being just a student, Jake realized football was still in his blood after all.  "I went through my freshman year, and in the fall of my sophomore year, I decided I wanted to play football again.  At that time, Coach DeBord was still there, and I decided to walk-on.  I made it with four other guys, but they didn't make it through the spring practices."


Coach DeBord eventually left the Central Michigan program, and luckily for Jake, Brian Kelly arrived.  "Coach Kelly came in, and I spent two seasons with him.  I ended up as a walk-on that earned a scholarship.  Hard work pays off with Coach Kelly.  That's one of the best things about him.  If you work hard, he pays you back." 


Even though Jake had exhausted his eligibility, his time at CMU was far from over.  He had proven himself to be a hard worker, and successful people always want to keep hard workers.  Jake explained how he came to stay at Central.   "Coach Forest, who was the running backs' coach at the time, wanted me to help out.  I wanted to stay in football and in the system so in the winter I helped in the weight room and coached the running backs with Coach Forest while I still went to school.  Last fall I was a little more involved in the weight room but still helped with the running backs."


Part of what makes this young man's story so special is the fact that he earned his scholarship without ever playing a college down.  "I never played once in college.  I never stepped onto the field.  Some people thought I was crazy and couldn't understand why I stayed on the team, but I knew my role.  I was a practice guy."  In an age of selfish athletes like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, there's still some Jake Flints, players willing to put the good of the team above everything else.


As Jacob finished his degree work at Central Michigan, Brian Kelly took virtually his entire staff with him to Cincinnati, a staff that included strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo.  And just like Coach Kelly, Longo wanted people he could trust.  That meant Jake Flint's phone rang with Longo offering him a job, but guy's like Jake tend to also be very modest as he explained what went through his mind.  "I obviously like Coach Longo.  He's a great guy, a great mentor.  I decided I might want to get into the field of strength and conditioning.  I knew the system and how he runs things.  I'd been through it as a player, and thought maybe he liked me.  But I don't know why he hired me."  Jake may not know why he was hired at Cincinnati, but Coach Longo explained it succinctly.  "He exemplified the effort both on and off the field that we wanted."


Now that Jake had a career, he had to do something else he had never done.  "This is the first time I've been out of my mom's house.  My mom lived by herself, and I tried to help her out as much as I could.  That's one of the reasons I went to Central.  She has a big house with a few acres, and I wanted to help her keep it up.  In May, when I came down here, it was the first time I've ever moved out of her house."


The country boy feels the move to the city has been pretty easy with one exception.

"I'm a country kid.  I really thought I wouldn't like the city and being around people and cars all the time, but I like going home and seeing people and having stuff to do although I haven't had a lot to time to explore.  I like just having the opportunity to go out and see professional sports teams, but I also miss the country and the quiet and seeing the deer.  The one thing I hate is the parking.  The driving isn't bad, but the parking is."  Longo joked that he was never worried about Jake making the transition to the city.  "I don't think he knows he's in a metropolitan area.  We haven't let him out of the office yet.  Once he finds that out, we'll have to cross that bridge then."


For the time being, Jake lives in Hyde Park with Mike Painter, an intern on the Bearcat football staff and Chris Sanden, an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Bengals, but that will soon change.  In July, Jake will marry his high school sweetheart, Katie who is currently finishing degree work at Central to become a teacher.


Jake sees one big difference between Coach Kelly's first team at CMU and this Bearcat squad.  "The players here are really ready to work hard.  They're willing to do the extra things.  At Central it was a little different.  When 7-on 7's were done in the summer, everyone went home, but look at these guys all staying after practice getting better.  We didn't have that the first year at Central.  These players want to win as badly as the coaches do."


Coach Longo and Jake seem to share a mutual respect.  Jake commented on his boss.  "Coach Longo really cares about all the players and has a personal relationship with them."  And Coach Longo is obviously thrilled to have a guy like Jake joining him in Cincinnati.  "Jake is my right hand man.  He knows how the program runs and the demeanor in which I want it taught.  He also knows the level that I want the players performing.  I can't get to all 105 of our players so Jake is always there to pick up the slack."  Coach Longo said he has to keep the other coaches away from Jake so they don't try to steal him.  "If you give Jake a job, you can guarantee he'll do it at the best of his ability.  That's an important trait, and it's tough to find."


Special guys like Jake Flint have always been hard to find.

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