Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Column: Former Bucs still driven to succeed as coaches

At first, there are questions. Did you know Warrick Dunn, were you friends with Derrick Brooks, what was playing on a team with Warren Sapp like?

Eventually, the novelty dies down.

In the time it takes Todd Yoder to blow his whistle and order the first set of up-downs, he goes from former Super Bowl-winning tight end of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to, well, coach Yoder.

"I think there's that first wow factor, when you meet the kids and they see the Super Bowl ring," said Yoder, head coach at Calvary Christian, but it goes away "after a week of getting to know me."

By then, Yoder hopes, they have taken notice of something else — his attention to detail, hard work and dedication to the craft of football. That's what made Yoder a Super Bowl-winning player and an attractive coaching candidate, and if his kids follow suit, it will make them successful high school players.

Yoder is one of five former Buc players serving as a head coach at the high school level, a group that includes 2002 Super Bowl teammates Mike Alstott (Northside Christian) and Ryan Benjamin (River Ridge), as well as Donnie Abraham (Clearwater) and Dave Moore (Shore­crest).

Abraham started with the Bucs in 1998, and Moore in 1992, but both left the season before the team won the championship.

But no matter, when it comes to expectations for the former Bucs. They are higher than they would be for other coaches, because they have competed and played at the highest level. After all, these are former Bucs, and their football credentials are burnished with a gigantic Super Bowl ring.

"I would assume people are going to expect instant gratification, but I don't put that pressure on myself," said Alstott, arguably the most popular Buc of all. "I understand the process and what it is."

For Alstott, that process is taking time. His first team went 0-10 last year. But last week, the Mustangs gave the A-Train his first victory in a 47-0 romp over Bishop McLaughlin, which happens to be coached by a former Minnesota Viking, Derrick Alexander.

While Alstott's hire made a big splash, there were questions. Well, at least one big one — would the A-Train stay on the tracks of what promised to be a long rebuilding effort?

Despite the 1-11 start to his coaching career, he says he is undaunted.

"Last year was a success, and this year even more," the former No. 40 said. "I know we all are judged on our wins and losses, but at the same time these are high school kids. There's lots of intangibles, lots of other obligations we have to them. Here, it's hands on and it's full time."

He even has enough players for a junior varsity team this year, an improvement over last year. And the quarterback of that team? His son, Griffin, a freshman.

"I'm having a blast," Alstott said. "I jumped in with both feet … and I'm a long-term guy."

Alstott's Mustangs will meet Yoder's Warriors on Friday. It will already be the second time two Bucs have squared off this season, as Moore's Chargers posted a season-opening 21-7 win over Northside Christian.

Buc vs. Buc.

Coach vs. Coach.

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