Writer’s note: Wayne Blair announced Tuesday, Jan. 27, he was resigning as coach of the Island Coast High School football program. Here’s a profile The News-Press wrote about him in mid-November, as the Gators, under Blair’s guidance, were preparing for a state playoff game. Blair, 40, had been commuting to Island Coast High from his home across the state in Plantation.
The Island Coast Gators are going on the road, while their first-year head coach is heading home on the very same trip.
At 7:30 p.m. Friday, Island Coast High School football coach Wayne Blair, a 39-year-old, Canadian-born music buff and one-time NFL prospect hopes to continue one of the best coaching debuts in Lee County history.
The Gators (10-2) will play at defending Class 5A state champion Plantation American Heritage (9-3) for the Region 5A-3 championship and the right to appear in the Class 5A state semifinals.
Blair can become the first first-year coach of a Lee County football team to take his program to within two victories of a state championship.
“He has brought a different style of football, I think, from the east coast to over here,” Island Coast senior running back Zelan Lambert said. “It’s different football over there. There’s more competition.”
Blair, who lives in a Cape Coral apartment, maintains his home in Plantation, where he grew up after moving to Florida from Canada, and close to where he played linebacker at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. He graduated from high school in 1994, played at Tulane University and went on to play in the Canadian Football League. The New Orleans Saints cut Blair during their 1999 training camp.
Blair served as the head coach at Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson for three seasons prior to taking the Island Coast job.
In 2004-06, Blair wasn’t doing much coaching. He had a full-time job with the City of Hollywood in human resources.
“It was one of the most miserable times of my life,” Blair said. “Seven and a half hours a day for five days a week. I was the ax man for the City of Hollywood. I fired people. I wasn’t on the hiring processing of HR. I was on the firing side of things.
“We would go against the union. It was the most miserable job ever known to mankind.”
Blair did it, he said, because at that time in his life, he needed to make more money than he could coaching football.
“They think of you as the grim reaper,” Blair said. “I stayed in that job for two and a half years.”
Blair then joined the St. Thomas Aquinas coaching staff. During that time in mid-2005, the football program garnered a shoe contract with Nike. Blair worked for Nike for a year.
“I did some voice overs and started making some money,” Blair said. “I traveled around and did some things. I was like a representative coach. It was pretty darn cool. I got to go out there and see different high schools around the country. I learned a lot from that.”
But Blair wanted to coach. He has coached football as an assistant or head coach at the University of New Haven, Aquinas, Blanche Ely, University8 School, Boyd Anderson and then Island Coast.
“Me,” Blair said. “Whistle. Outside. All day. That’s what I want to do.”
The Island Coast players have noticed his intensity, a changed style from Blair’s predecessor Joe Bowen, who was described as more laid back and who guided the Gators to the Class 2B state semifinals in 2010 when the program won two postseason games in a smaller bracket.
“He’s a motivator,” Island Coast senior defensive back and wide receiver Ryan Pulley said of Blair. “He’s a really good coach.”
Like Blair, Island Coast senior defensive end Christian Wise will be making a trip back home.
Wise, Blair’s nephew, grew up in Plantation. He moved to Island Coast with Blair.
“He’s a different type of coach,” Wise said. “He tries to get us excited for games. He emphasizes conditioning, I can tell you that. He makes sure we’re in shape.”
At some practices, Blair will have his “music man” play an assortment of songs from the Island Coast stadium loudspeakers.
The selection of songs runs from rockers AC/DC to rappers Young Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan and Plies – “The cleaned up versions,” Blair said of the often profane Fort Myers native – to country artist Hank Williams Jr.
“We cover all the bases,” Blair said. “We’re multicultural here.”
Now the Gators just need to cover all the bases Friday against an American Heritage program that defeated the best Lely team in 27 years last week and shut out Immokalee 51-0 one week prior to that.
“We have to rely on what we rely on,” Blair said. “Balanced football. Equal pass and run.”
Connect with this reporter: David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).
If you go
Three Lee County high school football teams will be competing for regional titles at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Here are the matchups:
Fort Myers (12-0) at Tarpon Springs East Lake (12-0), Region 7A-3 championship
Daytona Beach Mainland (12-0) at South Fort Myers (10-2), Region 6A-3 championship
Island Coast (10-2) at Plantation American Heritage (9-3), Region 5A-3 championship
Wayne Blair’s resume
Current: Coach of the Island Coast High School football team
2011-14: Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson High football coach
2008-11: Davie University School co-defensive coordinator
2007-08: Blanch Ely defensive coordinator
2004-07: St. Thomas Aquinas High assistant coach
2005-06: Nike Football consultant
2004-06: City of Hollywood human resource analyst
2002-04: University of New Haven graduate assistant
1999-01: Canadian Football Leeague player
1994-99: Tulane University football player