Life Lessons Abound At Glenville

In recognition of the OHSAA’s decision to move the state football finals to Ohio Stadium, is running a series throughout the season profiling the top high school gridiron programs in the state and what makes each one unique.

The story of the Cleveland Glenville High School football team is not about football.

Sure, the Tarblooders have had plenty of success on the gridiron and finished runner-up to Hilliard Davidson in Ohio’s Division I in 2009. They’ve sent a player to Ohio State in every recruiting class over the past 13 years and plenty more to other schools in that time frame. Five Glenville products now play in the NFL, the second-highest total of any high school football program in the country.

That success is embraced and celebrated, but it’s not how those affiliated with the program measure success. Just ask Ted Ginn Sr., the Tarblooders’ coach since 1997 who in 2007 founded the Ginn Academy, a place designed to integrate his leadership techniques and provide a safe haven for the players who suit up for him.

From Ginn’s perspective, football is just a means to a better life for Glenville men, many of whom come from unenviable circumstances.

“I’ve got love, passion and understanding for kids,” he said. “The football is just a vehicle that I use to attract the kids. That’s not really what I do. If I was just a football coach, I wouldn’t do it. This gives me an opportunity to teach them and educate them on how the world works. Football is just a piece of it. School gives you a chance to dominate the mind.”

The message starts from the outset and continues throughout players’ time with Ginn. Because he’s often dealing with at-risk kids, many of whom haven’t had steady role models in their lives, Ginn begins chipping away at kids the second they arrive. Sometimes it takes years before the message begins to resonate.

“You have to do a lot with the kids when they first get here because sometimes they think it’s all about football,” Ginn said. “You have to tell them to take that mold and junk it because that’s not what we do here. Sometimes it takes two years, sometimes three years, to break that thinking. You have to understand that we’re dealing with young people. A lot of them have a mind-set or behavior that’s been instilled in them for the first 13 or 14 years.”

Ginn’s lessons are rooted in the importance of education, and he’s not shy with his players about what’s at stake. Anyone who puts football on a pedestal will eventually learn to shift their priorities away from a game and to their schoolwork instead.

“He tells us once we leave high school, the world is waiting for us and it’s not some game out there,” junior defensive end Demann Wilson said. “He tries to give us as many life lessons as he can because he knows how it can turn out if things go the wrong way. He gives us the best life lessons he can so we can do something with our lives.”

Those lessons, and all of Ginn’s teachings, never stop. As his team practiced on a chilly Thursday in Cleveland, Ginn spoke to an aspiring coach who wanted to know when to draw the line with a troubled player. He hoped to one day use that reference when he became a head coach.

If he was expecting to find a behavior or situation that was labeled unfixable, he left disappointed. At Glenville, the help never stops coming from coaches and teachers. To Ginn, the idea of failure is personally devastating, and he treats it with the utmost seriousness.

“I was talking to someone who asked me at what point do you give up on a kid because he’s never seen me give up on a kid,” Ginn said. “I told him, ‘Never give up on a kid. That’s not why we’re here.’ I need Glenville coaches here. That doesn’t mean someone who went to Glenville. It’s someone who embraces our style of coaching and the way we help kids.

“If you were the head of 300 soldiers, you do one thing wrong and it might cost someone their life. That’s the mind-set you need to have here. It’s a mission to get a kid across the stage and in position to be productive in life. The worst thing that can happen to a soldier in charge of people is that something happens and he has to go up to the family and say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ When you come here, you have to have that mind-set. If they don’t make it through school, who’s going to walk up to that parent and tell them we’re sorry we didn’t get them across?”

When asked if the examples of players such as his son Ted Ginn Jr., now with the Arizona Cardinals, and Cleveland Browns safety Donte Whitner have made his life easier in providing a blueprint to troubled kids, Ginn said those success stories can have an adverse affect.

It shows kids that it can be done, giving them tangible examples of times when the system worked and players went on to have enormous personal success. At the same time, the players who come into the program today didn’t witness firsthand what those players went through to get where they are now. Expecting to have success without putting in the work doesn’t fly at Glenville.

“Do I think it’s getting better? No. It’s not getting better for a couple of reasons,” Ginn said. “People don’t really know what those kids went through to get there. You’ve got parents and kids coming along now that are trying to have the same success without the same work and the same amount of buying in and belief. Today, they think it’s automatic. And it’s not.”

When it does work, though, and when he sends a kid to college on a scholarship of any kind, Ginn wouldn’t trade that outcome for anything else in the world. There are difficult kids and less-than-stellar facilities, but all of that goes out the window when he sees his players receive a high school diploma. It’s part of the reason he won’t stop, no matter how difficult the circumstances become.

The Ginn Academy has played a big role in the academic success of his players, and Ginn lights up with a big grin when describing the feeling of seeing Tarblooders graduate.

“It’s the best thing in the world,” he said. “Money can’t buy it. That’s what I strive for every day. That’s what I live for. This isn’t some season, it’s an everyday thing. I do the same thing every day – trying to put kids on the right path and never giving up on them. If you give up on a kid, where do you expect them to go?”

Ginn loves to downplay the accomplishments on the football field, but the reality is that his program has churned out quite a few talented players over the years. With so many skilled athletes in one place, practices are laced with intensity and energy.

“It’s hard, but you know it’s getting you better for the games,” junior wide receiver Ralph Davis said. “Right now it may hurt you, but in the games it’s easier because you’re going against the best in practice.”

One particular aspect of practices, held at Bump Taylor Field near the school, still resonates with Ohio State junior linebacker Devan Bogard years after his high school career ended. The Oklahoma drill, a one-on-one hitting exercise similar to the circle drill that the Buckeyes do, reveals plenty about players and has a clear winner-loser outcome.

“I’ll never forget that drill,” Bogard said. “We have our best on best, and everybody is right next to each other. That builds our toughness. We have a tough coach, Coach Ginn, and he built us on toughness.”

The Tarblooders, who made the state playoffs all but one year from 1999-2010, started this season with back-to-back losses but have since rallied to claim four straight wins. None of their last three victories has been close, with Glenville outscoring its opponents by a 129-8 margin during that span.

That type of success is what the team thrives on. The importance of education is emphasized at all times, but football offers players the chance to put on a show and entertain.

“Everybody wants to help each other and come together as a team because we wear the G (logo) for a reason,” Wilson said. “We wear it to tell everybody we can do it. We want to help our community, which is kind of not the best community in the world. We’re able to help our community through our football program.

“When we win, it’s like our community beat that place. Our community has smiles because they know their football team is doing well.” Ginn looks for players who love football because the program is such a strong selling point for the school, and as a result the team is absolutely stacked with guys who would do anything to play football.

“It’s just our passion,” Bogard said. “That’s what we’ve been doing since we were little. We’ll be out there all night at Bump Taylor just throwing the football around with each other.”

Once they walk into that program, though, football becomes just a piece of the path to a better life.

OSU Signees Since 2002:
OL Marcelys Jones (2014)
CB Marshon Lattimore (2014)
S Erick Smith (2014)
LB Chris Worley (2013)
LB Devan Bogard (2012)
QB Cardale Jones (2011)
S Christian Bryant (2010)
OL Marcus Hall (2009)
DE Jonathan Newsome (2009)
RB Jermil Martin (2008)
DT Shawntel Rowell (2008)
S Jermale Hines (2007)
OL Bryant Browing (2006)
DE Robert Rose (2006)
WR Ray Small (2006)
LB Freddie Lenix (2005)
S Jamario O’Neal (2005)
WR Ted Ginn Jr. (2004)
LB Curtis Terry (2004)
CB Dareus Hiley (2003)
S Donte Whitner (2003)
QB Troy Smith (2002)

Notable Current FBS Players:
V’Angelo Bentley – Illinois DB
Frank Clark – Michigan DE
Willie Henry – Michigan DT
Aundrey Walker – USC OL
Shane Wynn – Indiana WR

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