And on the final day of the 2005 calendar year, Ginn will be back in San Antonio but this time he'll be there as the head football coach of the East squad for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The prestigious national all-star game, carried live by NBC at 1 p.m. (EST) on Saturday Jan. 7, will culminate a week filled with fellowship and activities among some of the best high school football players in the country.
Ginn, who turned 50 in November, has been diligently preparing for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ever since he was officially named to the post in the fall. After the coaching staffs from both squads report on Saturday, the players who were selected to play in the game will begin arriving in San Antonio a day later.
"I'm going to go in on the first day and meet with the coaching staff and try to get acquainted in that way. And then the next day is the day the kids come in," Ginn said. "Basically I've already sent every kid a letter to introduce myself and let them know the purpose of why they're there playing in the All-American game. I wanted the kids to know that people all across the country will be looking at them as the future leaders on the collegiate level, representing the class of 2006, and that they needed to be focused when they get to San Antonio and try to get a win."
Ginn, who was actually the defensive coordinator for the East team back in the second year of the game when Vince Young was one of the main guys on the West offense that he tried, unsuccessfully, to stop, truly knows that this game is so much more than just a high school all-star football contest.
"I just think that everybody that's involved, from the players to the coaches and everyone else, should feel honored just by being there," Ginn said. "The game's already come so far since the first year and I wanted the kids to know that it's a really big deal for them to be a part of the All-American Bowl. I want them to enjoy it but I want them to be focused as well."
A promoter and advocate of the Army All-American Bowl in one form or another since the inception, Ginn, who has encouraged many of his kids from Glenville to attend the annual combine that's a big part of the weekend in San Antonio every year, is honored and extremely thankful to have been given the chance to be a head coach this year.
"I don't think that it's so much a reflection of what I've done at Glenville, it's just that I find my way to get in the way," Ginn said. "I go across the country for events like this to meet people because I want to be educated about the whole business. From the very beginning when it was in Dallas (Dec. 30, 2000) I've met a lot of the people that were involved and I was always supportive of them over the years. I've been going every year that it's been in existence and I think that it shows the loyalty that I have for the All-American game. So anytime you can get a national look it's a big honor."
And so he is genuinely relishing the opportunity that is ahead of him as the East team's head coach. He's put a lot of thought into the way he plans to handle the week ahead and prepare for the actual contest itself.
"First of all my strategy is to let the kids know that we're there for business," Ginn said. "There's a time for work and there's a time for leisure and they've got to understand that and so we've got to know how to balance that."
But at the same time, Ginn wouldn't be true to himself if he didn't try instill some of the same values in this collection of all-stars as he does with his kids at Glenville.
"You've got to remember that these are still kids and you always have to try to teach them something or give them something that they can tuck away for their life," Ginn said. "This game is a part of their life and it's not a dress rehearsal and I want to be able to give them something to take with them for the rest of their life. And that's a part of my goal this week, in addition to winning the game."
Winning football games at Glenville was never the most important part of being the head coach for Ginn at the Cleveland public school that's tucked away in the rugged streets of the city's east side. But for this week Ginn admits that it is.
"No question, you have to try to do that in a ball game like this because this is the class of 2006 and this is the East squad and you're considered the best that there is in the East," said Ginn who was on the losing side of the scoreboard, 26-6, in 2002. "This is a game that you need to win. These are some of the same people that you are going to meet up with again at the collegiate level and maybe again in the pros so you need to have those bragging rights from that.
"But you have to have class and you have to be respectful and that's something that I want to make sure we do on the East. There's a lot of things that we have to be mindful of over just a few days so that's the reason why I sent them all a letter to give them a heads-up on how things are going to be done."
Although Ginn expects to adhere to a precise schedule and follow the usual protocol during the week, there is a bit of uncertainty about how things will be handled on Monday, Jan. 4, at 4 p.m. (CST). Ohio State kicks off with Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl at approximately that time and Ginn is really uncertain how that scenario will play out.
"I don't know what's going to happen. That's a rough deal right there," Ginn said. "It was rough for me not to be able to go but God gives you jobs and I guess this is one of the jobs that I have to do. I guess it's just not my deal to be at the (Fiesta) bowl game. That's going to be rough for me to deal with because I'm still a father. But mom will be in Arizona. You couldn't stop her."
Ginn admitted that he doesn't really know the entire roster very well but he his looking forward to assembling all of the talent that is on the East roster.
"I think any time that you have 41 or 42 kids that are suppose to be the best in the country, that's exciting," he said. "All that we have to do is get out there and have a few good organized practices and an organized game plan and we should come out on top. But it still goes back to how we can gel in just a few days so we need to have a purpose and trust the fact that we know why we're here. That's why I wanted to send them all a letter."
Coaching talented players at the quarterback position like Tim Tebow, Zach Fraser and Demetrius Jones and running backs like Chris Wells, James Aldridge and LeSean McCoy is probably the most exciting thing that Ginn is looking forward to.
"I'm looking forward to coaching all of them. They're All-Americans and you've got to be ready to use them all," said Ginn, who in addition to Wells will get to coach his former player Robert Rose in the game as well as Connor Smith, who has already verbally committed to Ohio State. "I'm really excited to get to work with (Wells), I'm excited to coach him. I talk to him all of the time and I've talked to him throughout the season this year and it should be a great experience. I'm looking forward to giving him a chance to shine if it works out that way but I want everybody to shine. I'm excited about everybody."
And at the end of week, regardless of the outcome of the game, Ginn hopes to leave an All-American impression on the young men that he will be in charge of during the week.
"I just want to be able to teach these young men something in just a few days that they can carry with them for the rest of their life. That's what I'm aiming for," Ginn said. "And I want to win."
Even though he won't get to see his son play in the Fiesta Bowl in person, Ginn couldn't really ask for a better ending to a somewhat disappointing season at Glenville that began with him staring his mortality from a potential bout with cancer directly in the face and ended with a somewhat abrupt and premature departure in the playoffs.
"I'm happy. What more can I say?," Ginn said. "I'm pretty much happy with our season. I'm pretty much happy with what happened this year and I'm happy with my health because I'm back and feeling good and God has blessed me to keep on going."
Between himself and his son, who was the most valuable player in the Army All-American two seasons ago, Ginn believes that they have a responsibility to share their blessings with others who might not be as fortunate and this game gives him another opportunity to do that.
"I'd be foolish to say that I'm not blessed because I know that I am," Ginn said. "It didn't have to be the way it is. I don't have to be where I'm at and my son doesn't have to be where he's at. That was chosen by somebody else. That was chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a blessing. The deal of it is is that you need to keep doing the things you need to do so that you can continue to be blessed. Any time you're giving, I think that's where your blessings come from."
And if he can somehow give the East squad a victory next Saturday then Ginn would really be a happy man and he would undoubtedly feel extremely blessed.
Gary Housteau will be in San Antonio on Jan. 3 and will file reports from there during the week leading up to the All-American Bowl on Saturday.