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Football player, coach will say bonjour to dream job in France

Jarvis McGarrah works at Papa Angelo’s, with owner Andy Budo, left, but soon will head to Chambéry, France, where he will coach a semipro team that plays American-style football. The St. Pete native has played football in Europe. 

SANDRA J. GADSDEN | Times

Jarvis McGarrah works at Papa Angelo’s, with owner Andy Budo, left, but soon will head to Chambéry, France, where he will coach a semipro team that plays American-style football. The St. Pete native has played football in Europe. 

Since April, he has been a waiter and delivery guy at Papa Angelo's, a pizza shop at 536 First Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg.

But in a week or so, Jarvis McGarrah will embark on a journey that he hopes will lead to a career as a college head football coach.

The St. Petersburg native is bound for Chambéry, France, where he will be head coach of Les Aigles, a semipro team that plays American-style football.

Chambéry, a city of about 60,000, is near the French Alps in southern France, due east of Lyon, south of Geneva, Switzerland, and a day trip north of Nice, Cannes and Marseilles.

This isn't the first venture into coaching, or football in Europe, for McGarrah, a 1991 graduate of Osceola High School.

Although he is small by football standards — 5 feet 8 and 185 pounds in his playing days, he says — McGarrah was a standout in both high school and college. He was a receiver on the Osceola team that won the Class 4A district championship in 1990 and a defensive back for Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, when it won the 1995 NAIA Division I championship.

He later played for semipro teams in Weyhe, Germany, and Roskilde, Denmark, and coached in the youth programs for both teams.

In recent years, McGarrah, 38, has been an assistant coach at Gibbs, Lakewood and Osceola high schools. He also has coached at youth camps offered by NFL players including Alex Smith, Barrett Ruud (former Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Mark Clayton (Baltimore Ravens) and Louis Murphy Jr. (Oakland Raiders).

When he arrives in France, he will work with returning coaches to put a team together.

The European schedule runs from early November through February, said McGarrah. If the team makes it to the playoffs, it will play until June.

"My ultimate goal is to bring my team over here to play against a local team, sort of like a Unity Bowl game," he said. There are semipro teams in St. Petersburg and Tampa that could foster goodwill by hosting a European team, he said.

"I realize I have to get established first," said McGarrah, adding that his goal is also to "introduce the international game to people here as well."

His boss at Papa Angelo's, Andy Budo, is fluent in five languages. He has helped McGarrah brush up on his French this summer as he prepares for his new gig. Most of the players are natives of France but speak some English. A few players are from the United States.

"I have my Rosetta Stone (foreign language program), so that will help out," he said. "I wish I had it in high school."

He will be living with the family of the team's president, who "has a huge house."

McGarrah's wife of six years, Rhonda, teaches at the Imagine School in St. Petersburg. She will remain here but visit during Christmas break. He says they handle separation well, thanks in part to technologies like Skype and FaceTime.

As head coach, McGarrah said, he wants the team to adopt the Imagine School and become pen pals with the children. "If we're able to bring the team here, we'll visit the school."

The McGarrah name is familiar in education and recreation circles here. His father, George Jr., coached for more than 40 years at Melrose Elementary and summer programs at city parks. His mother, Valerie, taught at Jordan Head Start for more than 30 years.

McGarrah's goal of bringing European football teams here may fit into Mayor Bill Foster's St. Petersburg Sports Alliance, which already includes international baseball. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Alstott and Shaun King serve on the alliance, so let's hope they can come up with ideas to bring international football teams here.

With any luck, the Sunshine City could evolve into an international arts and sports hub.

Now about those Rays …

Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at sgadsden@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8874.

Football player, coach will say bonjour to dream job in France 08/27/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 27, 2011 5:31am]

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