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Greg Scruggs’ high school coach wins NFL honor
When Greg Scruggs was informed about the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year award, the Seahawks’ rookie defensive lineman knew he had to at least nominate his coach at Xavier High School in Cincinnati.
And guess what? Steve Specht, the coach Scruggs’ nominated, is the 2012 winner of the honor that is named after the winningest coach in NFL history. Specht, who has coached at Xavier since 1993, was presented his award in New Orleans on Friday morning as part of the festivities leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.
“It was one of those things where they were like, ‘Hey, if you want to nominate your high school coach.’ I was like, ‘Well, shoot, I’ll give it whirl,’ ” Scruggs said. “I respect him enough that I put my heart into his nomination and hoped they’d take it into consideration. But I never expected him to win.”
Offered Specht when asked earlier this week his reaction to winning the award, “I was shocked. It was one of those deals where I started laughing to myself because, although I was a little shocked, there isn’t a thing that Greg Scruggs does anymore that surprises me.”
This player-coach relationship almost didn’t happened, because Scruggs only played football at Xavier his senior season – and then only after much coaxing from and recruiting by Specht.
“I’m just glad he took me up on my offer to play for me and get out of the band,” Specht said with a laugh.
Said Scruggs, “If it wasn’t for coach Specht, I wouldn’t even be playing football. When he finally got me to come out, he then did something that a lot of high school coaches won’t do – whenever the big-time scouts would come through to visit other players, he always made sure they would say hi to me. He put me out there and really got me my exposure.”
So it’s understandable that each feels he is a better person – as well as player and coach – because of the time they spent together, and invested in one another.
“I’m a spitting image of what coach Specht is all about – respect, discipline, working hard, being a man, remembering where I came from, staying humble,” Scruggs said. “All the characteristics you can find in me are a direct reflection of not only my family but from him. He was my first impression of football. So whatever he instilled in me, that’s all I knew and that’s what I was going to take with me.
“So to this day, even with the Seahawks, everybody on the staff and around the organization knows that I’m going to work my rear off and at the end of the day that will never waver, and that I’m going to be respectful and mindful of the media and coaches and friends and players and fans alike. And that’s a direct reflection of my first impressions of ever being exposed to it, and that was with Steve Specht.”
With the award comes $10,000 for Specht and another $15,000 for the football program at Xavier. It makes it even sweeter because Specht never got into high school coaching for the monetary rewards.
“You work at this profession, at this level, you’re hoping that you’re helping to turn boys into men,” Specht said. “Everything that we preach, everything we talk about, you sometimes wonder if it’s gotten through to the kids. Then something like this happens. So you look back and you say, ‘We did it. We made an impact,’ because Greg Scruggs cared enough to give back.”
Specht also had another NFL player on that same team with Scruggs – Luke Kuechly, the middle linebacker for the Carolina Panthers who is a leading candidate to be named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year on Saturday night.
“You wonder why I was a pretty good coach, I had Luke stacked right behind Greg,” Specht said. “Talk about a recipe for success.”
Said Scruggs, “Coach always jokes that he actually has to work now. He can’t just throw the ball out there and say, ‘Sick ’em.’ ”
Scruggs and Kuechly were on hand for the awards ceremony.
“It’s going to be neat to share my success with my kids, with my players,” Specht said.
And what will Specht and his program do with the money?
“We haven’t talked about anything really,” he said. “It’s just so crazy. Everything is flying by so fast. I got a call last Thursday. I had to immediately call my principle and the president of the school to get their blessing to miss three days of school.
“It’s so surreal right now. I’m still trying to figure out what happened.”
What happened is this: Steve Specht made such an impact of Greg Scruggs’ life that Scruggs has found a way to partially repay him.
“I owe it all to him,” Scruggs said. “He still keeps in touch with me. He checks on football, but at the end of the day he cares how I am as a person and what I’m doing with my life and where I’m going in life. He loves me like a son, and loves all his players like a son.
“The connection and bond that I have with him is what was the driving force behind me feeling so strongly about my coach and nominating him.”