Green Bay West football coach Jeff Behrendt heard his cell phone ringing in his pocket while on the phone with a customer Thursday morning.
The call was coming from Jon Gruden, the longtime coach turned Monday Night Football commentator, who ended up leaving a message.
Gruden planned to call Behrendt, Green Bay East’s Brian Nast, Green Bay Preble’s Tim Larsen and Menominee Indian’s Chris Clache to invite them and some of their players to an all-expenses paid dinner and clinic at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Ashwaubenon at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Gruden and his “Fired Football Coaches Association” will present each coach with $1,000 for their programs along with a GoPro camera and equipment.
“It’s nice to be recognized and have people out there see not only us at West, but other schools, the work that the coaches are putting in,” Behrendt said. “To get recognition of that is certainly a plus.”
The coaches and players will get an opportunity to talk football with Gruden, and the public is invited to attend.
“Any time you get to talk to the guy who has been at the highest level, it’s exciting,” Nast said. “The kids are excited. Coaches are excited. Everybody is excited to do it.”
Gruden started the FFCA after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired him in January 2009.
Gruden joked that the only job he was able to find afterward was as an assistant offensive line coach at Carrollwood Day School in Tampa, Fla., where his son played quarterback.
When he got there, he found the coaches didn’t have enough practice footballs, gear or sleds. They didn’t have enough of anything.
It bothered Gruden, especially after learning it was even worse at other high schools.
He and his friend, Dan Walker, decided to do something about it by starting the FFCA.
“We are concerned about the state of the game, particularly at the high school level,” said Gruden, who was an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers from 1992-94. “Everywhere we go, we try to just gain some information and pick up some knowledge on where the game is.
“I just know that there are a lot of teams, coaches and programs that need some assistance. We can’t do a whole lot, but we are going to do everything we can.”
Gruden hopes and expects the FFCA can continue to grow with the help of several companies that have gotten involved.
The Green Bay stop is the fifth of six the FFCA is doing this season.
“It all starts with awareness,” Gruden said. “You got to have a a spark. You got to have a flame. It has got to start from somewhere.
“If we can light the fuse a little bit, light the fire, create some awareness, perhaps a person or two in your area will go, ‘You know what? Maybe I can do a little something for Green Bay Preble or Green Bay East. Maybe I can do something for the local team, too.’ “
— email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @scottvenci