Former NFL quarterback Steve Walsh has been named director of football at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and Kevin Wright, a former state champion coach at Carmel High in Indiana, has been named head coach for a program expected to be among the nation’s best in 2015.
They replace Chris Weinke, who had served in both roles at IMG since the inception of the high school football program. Weinke is now the quarterbacks coach of the St. Louis Rams.
Walsh will focus more on overall football program development, including camps, events and collegiate/professional training opportunities. Wright will lead the IMG football teams, which have gone 9-2 and 10-1 in their first two varsity seasons.
Both are expected to be in Brandenton within three weeks.
“Of the hundred of candidates, the same things stood out about both of them. They’re both winners, not just on the field but in life,” IMG athletic director Greg Phillips told USA TODAY High School Sports on Monday. “Look at the history on both guys, they are pretty special. … They are about the right things. We hire on character and work ethic and we hire on passion for developing kids. …
“They’re both well-spoken, will represent us well and be comfortable with the media. They’re both absolutely passionate about developing kids on the field, in the classroom and developing leaders.”
Walsh spent 11 years in the NFL, most notably with the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears after a standout career at the University of Miami that included the 1987 national title. He was fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy the following year.
After a career in the mortgage banking business, Walsh returned to football in 2009 as head coach at Cardinal Newman in West Palm Beach, Fla. He led the program to five state playoff appearances.
“After six great seasons with Cardinal Newman, I am looking forward to this next challenge with IMG Academy,” Walsh said in a statement. “It’s exciting to be able to share my high school, collegiate and professional playing and coaching experiences with these student-athletes, while also assisting IMG in continuing to attract and develop talented players of all levels from around the world.”
Phillips said the combination of Walsh’s athletic and coaching background along with his business acumen make him the right choice.
“Steve made a name for himself as a student athlete at Miami, but it’s not what he did but how he led that team and then doing so well to stay in the league for 11 years. That’s tribute,” Phillips said. “If you think about the role of a director and the strategic thinking and the business part and bring together his finance background and banking background, we he thought he was perfect combination.”
Wright has coached at several national high school powers such as Tulsa Union, Warren Central in Indianapolis and Trinity in Louisville before heading to Carmel. Carmel played in three state title games and won the 6A state title in 2011 to finish at No. 8 in the USA TODAY Sports’ Super 25. At Warren, he won three consecutive state 6A titles. Along with his high school coaching experience, Wright was Western Kentucky’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the program’s transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“Kevin has spent a full lifetime around coaching,” Phillips said. “He gets what it is to be a coach. He grew up in a coaching family.”
Wright will inherit a team that features eight players in the Rivals 100 for current juniors, including four in the top 21. That group is led by defensive end Shavar Manuel (No. 10), linebacker Rahshaun Smith (No. 11), quarterback Malik Henry (No. 15) and defensive back Saivion Smith (No. 21). Henry is a Florida State commit and Saivion Smith has committed to LSU.
“I’m looking forward to joining a young, exciting program at IMG Academy after five enjoyable seasons with Carmel,” Wright said. “It’s particularly attractive to join a program founded on the principle that’s long been at the core of everything I live by as a coach – developing young leaders who can find as much success in the classroom and in their community as they can on the field.”
IMG also promoted offensive coordinator E.G. Green to assistant head coach. Green is a former All-American at Florida State and Sugar Bowl MVP.