On the Lighter Side

There's been a lot of attention on the Cleveland Glenville football team the past couple of years as they've had some big-time football recruits. Behind the program's success is head coach Ted Ginn. In today's "On the Lighter Side," a weekly column for club subscribers (this week is a freebie), Gary Housteau gives you a look at the man who wants to be looked at as more than a football coach.

Be it Jim Tressel, Lloyd Carr, Nick Saban or Pete Carroll; Ted Ginn Sr., the head football coach of Glenville High School and proud father of Ted Ginn Jr., has humbly played host to all of these prominent college football coaches in recent days and months as they all courted his son in an attempt to sway him to their campus.

"Everything is dead now," Ginn Sr. said. "But there's been a lot of exposure to our kids because of it."

The kids Ginn is referring to are the many number of talented football players that walk the halls of Glenville that are not as highly-touted as Ginn Jr. is.

"The kids in this area come to Glenville because they want to have an opportunity to play on a higher level, but even more so they come here because we care and we love our kids," Ginn said. "We probably don't have the regular type of football program because we are indebted to the children and we're trying to give them a chance in this world. So football is just a vehicle that we use and we try to set up a structure around them in every phase of their life to eliminate all of their excuses.

"The kids buy into it and then we work with them at every area of their life to try to get them to become successful in the classroom and on the field. That's basically how we produce the kids that we do."

In that aspect, Ginn is almost too good to be true. Ginn himself graduated from Glenville and came back to his school to become a difference-maker.

"As a person, I try to live by what I stand for, and I try to be a person for the children to look up to and to lean on and to just make a difference in this world," Ginn said. "I just try to be somebody for the kids to lean on. And it isn't always just for the guys, that goes for the girls too, helping the kids to look forward to the next step in life. This is where they begin to form their resume.

"So I try to be the guy that gives them the information and I try to educate them and I try to educate their parents so that they don't make mistakes with their children. We all need that type of help, and I just don't see everybody looking at it that way."

At the same time, Ginn is a coach. As the head football coach, he steered his team to a first-round match up in the playoffs against a perennial Cleveland parochial power, St. Ignatius, and almost pulled off an upset. As the head track coach at Glenville, Ginn is at the helm of one of Ohio's best and most successful high school track programs.

"One thing that really bothers me is when somebody looks at me as a coach," Ginn said. "I want to be looked at as a man that has a passion for children and an understanding for kids."

Unfortunately because of the recent success of both the football team and the track program, there are people and even fellow coaches who think that Ginn's motives might not quite be as pristine as he purports them to be.

"Those people I don't even have any conversation for because they need to know who I am and know what I'm about," Ginn said. "People that know me and know what I'm about know that I don't care if I ever win a state title. I don't coach for that. I just coach to try to make a difference in these kids lives in whatever way it is.

"I've got plenty of kids on my team that probably will never even hit the field, but when they leave Glenville High School they're going to be something or somebody, whether they're going to be a garbage man or carpenter or fireman or whatever. They're going to learn something."

But a state title is naturally something that everyone should work for and aspire to.

"I'm not going to promote that because I'm promoting life," Ginn said. "We can have life without a state title. That goes without saying. If you work hard, the harder you work the luckier you will be, the state title will come but I don't make that first here."

Obviously Tressel, and Mel Tucker in particular, believe in the ways and the teachings of Ginn. There might not be a bigger proponent of Ohio State football in the Ohio high school coaching ranks than Ginn.

"Those people at Ohio State believe in what I'm doing here at Glenville High School," Ginn said. "Maybe everybody else doesn't look at it like that but I think with Tress and Mel, I pretty much know that they are more impressed with what I'm trying to do for the children. I know that they believe in what we're doing here at Glenville High School for the children."

In return, Ginn feels comfortable with trusting the future welfare of his own child to Tressel at Ohio State as Ted verbally committed to Ohio State on Jan. 3. Next year, Jamario O'Neal, who Ginn considers to be a son, will also play for the Buckeyes after his senior season at Glenville. Ginn and his wife became the legal guardians of O'Neal when he decided to leave Mansfield Senior High School after he was involved in a misdemeanor theft case.

"My wife is probably the biggest thing and the best thing that ever happened to Jamario O'Neal," Ginn said. "By him losing his mom when he was young, she's the mom that he was missing. My wife plays a big part in it for him because it wasn't an easy situation for him to leave Mansfield and come here to Cleveland."

O'Neal, who came to live with the Ginn's with the blessing of his father Walter Jefferson, missed most of the football season while waiting for all of the legal issues to be cleared up.

"In his situation, this was the best thing that ever happened to him," Ginn said. "Not so much about the sport but so much more about his life, about having a mom in his life."

And soon Ted Jr. will be off to Ohio State and as a result, Jamario will have more closet space in the Ginn household.

Ted Ginn, Jr. and Jamario O'Neal

"He's here for life. And that's just real," Ginn said. "And people don't know the impact that we as a family have now on him and it's not just my wife. He calls me dad and he calls her mom and you could tell if it's fake or not. But it's real because he really believes it because we have made a difference in his life. He's around people that are serious about his life, not just serious about the sport he's playing."

Admittedly, Ginn would like to bring the kind of success to his football team that his track program presently enjoys and having O'Neal on the team obviously helps them in that direction. Sure, Ginn would like for his kids to win a big playoff game to be rewarded for the effort they've put into the sport and to help shine the light on Glenville High School, make no mistake about it.

"Just because we're from 113th and St. Clair people don't really understand what we're going through. Everybody down here is not a kid that's struggling, we're trying to live like everybody else," Ginn said. "This year (football) was a perfect example. Coming from the inner city of Cleveland, people looked at us like ‘Oh, they just had a nice year,' or ‘They were just lucky they did that,' but we work at everything we get, we don't want you to give us anything. I think we kind of showed people this year, and we've been showing people for the last seven years, but nobody is really paying attention.

"The biggest thing that bothers me, and I hate to say it, is that they need to get off that thing about what they think we are from the inner city. Just let us be who we are. We don't have all of the resources like everybody else but we improvise very well and we like to get the same accolades that everybody else gets."

And Ginn will continue being who he is regardless of what other people may or may not think of him.

"They think all that I want to do is win a state title, and I don't care if I never win one," he said. "I think that people don't think I'm for real for the kids, that they don't think I'm in this business for the children. I think they think I'm in this business for myself, and that's not true."

All that being said, where does Ginn see himself down the line?

"I couldn't really tell you," he said. "All I can do is tell you one of those old hymns: ‘Lord help me to hold on until the change comes.' "

That certainly leaves him open for interpretation.

The Ginn Family

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