1. Archive

From high school to Germany and back

Batman might appear anywhere: Gotham City, Germany, perhaps coaching a high school defense in Hillsborough County.

Richard "Batman" Wood, last season's Times All-Suncoast Coach of the Year who left Wharton to coach the defensive line for NFL Europe's Frankfurt Galaxy, said the experience was great, but a return to high school coaching is not out of the question.

Wood won a championship ring when Frankfurt beat the Rhein Fire 35-16 in World Bowl XI, and he coached a line for defensive coordinator Bob Valesente that led the league in rushing defense and finished second in sacks.

"I had a great time over there," said Wood, a former Bucs linebacker. "I really appreciate (coach) Doug Graber for giving me the opportunity. I had never coached the D-line, so that was excellent experience learning schemes and techniques for those positions.

"We had a great group of players to work with, including (lineman) Buck Gurley and (linebacker) Idris Price from the Bucs. Doug has asked me back and I'd love to go back, unless I'm a head coach in high school again."

Wood left Wharton after a 13-2 season ended with a loss in the 5A state title game for Wharton's first winning season in its six years. Former Tampa Bay Storm defensive back Melvin Cunningham was hired to replace Wood.

Wood also quit as school resource officer at Wharton because the school didn't have funds for the position this year. After returning from Germany in June he resumed work for the school board as a school security officer. But as football season approaches he is a coach without a team.

"I knew that would happen, but the Frankfurt coaching opportunity was too good to pass up," Wood said. "I'd love to have stayed there (Wharton), even as resource officer, because those are my kids. I love the kids there, whether I coach or not. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Wharton because of what we accomplished."

He would be receptive to offers as a defensive assistant at a county school, but he isn't soliciting.

"I'm not going to call because that's up to the head coach," Wood said. "I always want to work with kids because they're our foundation. It's not just about football. I enjoy the opportunity to help them become great citizens and go on to lead productive lives in society.

"But I realize most of the coaching positions are filled. We'll see what happens in the next month."