Photo: 1 and 2) Glen Coates; 3) Kelvin Hopkins
Army wide receiver Glen Coates tells an education story more Americans need to hear to understand the impactful work high school coaches and teachers provide. Their rewards are satisfying and fulfilling but certainly not financial.
Instead, we live in American society that directs dollars to the likes of New England’s Bill Belichick for winning Super Bowls and Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney for dominating college football.
Trickle-down economic theories don’t pay off in education, either.
But nevertheless then-Davidson Day football coach Chad Grier provided Coates with invaluable advice. Coates was lightly recruited while considering his college options, but Grier pointed out to him the interest Army’s coaches had showed him was superior to other schools.
“He talked to me about the most important things to consider,” Coates said. “He said, ‘Don’t go where you want to go – go where you’re wanted.’ That meant a lot to me during recruiting.”
Grier is the father of West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, who projected as a second-round NFL draft pick later this month.
But despite that imminent payday – not to mention Will’s younger brother Nash cashing in on social media stardom with 9 million Instagram subscribers – Chad still plays the role of educator/coach, although he’s now at Oceanside Collegiate Academy, a public charter school in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
“You don’t get rich coaching in high school, but you surely get rewarded,” Chad said. “I have four boys of my own and 100s of boys I’ve coached. My connection with Glen is stronger than most player-coach connections. He will be part of the rest of my life.”
Chad said Coates arrived at Davidson Day with little confidence in himself, but he grew into one of Will’s targets on the way to Will earning the Gatorade Player of the Year honors for North Carolina.
Whatever Army’s coaches saw in Coates as a high school athlete, their vision has paid off, thanks to Chad Grier’s advice. Coates, a 6-foot, 195-pounder, is a returning senior starter at wide receiver as Army runs through 2019 spring drills.
After spending 2015 at the Army prep school, he played a backup role as a freshman receiver and was moved to defense as a sophomore due to injuries in the secondary. But upon returning to receiver, he enjoyed a breakout season.
He grabbed one of the most important catches of Army’s season in their win over Navy. He caught a third-and-six pass from quarterback Kelvin Hopkins that Navy outside linebacker Nizaire Cromartie had read and nearly broke up on his blitz.
Hopkins, scrambling to his right, read Coates as his second option. Coates had a step on cornerback Jarid Ryan and two on safety Sean Williams and went up for the ball Hopkins threw high were only Coates could pull it down. The catch was good for 17 yards.
With the first down, Army not only avoided a fourth-down punt from deep in its territory, the gain led to a touchdown two plays later. Kell Walker galloped 51 yards and Hopkins 10 to the end zone.
“That play had worked all week in practice,” said Coates of the call offensive coordinator Brent Davis sent to the huddle. “I was excited coach Davis picked that play. As we ran the play, I almost started yelling Kelvin’s name, but just as I was about to yell he threw the ball. We’re taught to go up in the air to get it.”
The significance of Coates’ catch grew as afternoon turned to evening. Navy’s defense stiffened to end thoughts of a one-sided game. The Black Knights didn’t put Navy away until the final moments, 17-10.
Army (11-2) went on to beat Houston in the bowl to post the program’s first 11-victory season.
“To make that catch in our biggest game of the year was super satisfying to me,” Coates said. “My confidence has gone through the roof. I’m excited to get the season started.”
He finished the year catching eight balls for 121 yards, a 15.1 average, in Army’s ground-oriented triple-option attack. He figures to catch more with Army expected to expand its passing game.
Army remains a triple-option offense, but unlike most option quarterbacks Hopkins has a Division I arm. Only his 5-foot-11 height prevented him from being recruited by more schools.
As a second-year starter the coaches have more trust in him to throw the ball. Last season he broke a milestone as Army’s first quarterback to run and throw for 1,000 yards in a season with 1,017 rushing and 1,026 passing.
“Our receivers and slots as well are looking forward to opening up the offense,” Coates said. “We obviously have a good passing quarterback that can also run. It makes our offense a little more unpredictable and explosive.”
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Both Army and Navy recruit North Carolina high schools heavily. Not only were there 18 players from the Tar Heel state in last year’s Army-Navy Game, three North Carolinians were involved in one of the bigger plays of the day.
I described the play above, with Navy outside linebacker Nizaire Cromartie of Greensboro Dudley nearly breaking up the pass from Kelvin Hopkins of Charlotte Independence to Glen Coates of Davidson Day School.
In all, six of the 16 were on the two-deep depth chart, with five starters and one other No. 2 backup.
Army’s Tar Heel breakdown was 13 players, four starters and five total on the depth chart. The other two starters were senior nose guard Raymond Wright of Charlotte Ardrey Kell and junior free safety Jaylon McClinton of Charlotte Christian and the No. 2 backup was junior defensive end Jake Ellington of Zebulon East Wake.
Navy’s Tar Heel breakdown was three players with Cromartie the lone starter.
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Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light http://tinyurl.com/knsqtqu
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David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer; "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."