Davidson Academy coach Jonathan Quinn was forced to make a big adjustment when his NFL quarterback playing days ended and his coaching career began.
It certainly wasn’t a simple transition.
“The biggest adjustment from player to coach for me was how slow the game was (at the high school level),” said Quinn, who won his first high school football state championship as a head coach in December. “When you are dealing with playing at such a high level for such a long time, and then you go here.
“The game is so much slower. And the time that you have to teach the game is a lot less. At the professional level, that’s all you do all day.”
Former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, made national headlines earlier this month when he was named Lipscomb Academy’s next head coach.
But Dilfer will be just the latest former NFL quarterback serving as a high school football head coach in the Nashville area. Last season there were three in Quinn, Rusty Smith at Grace Christian and Ingle Martin at CPA.
Quinn was picked in the third round of the 1998 NFL draft by Jacksonville. Martin was picked in the fifth round by the Packers in the 2006 draft. Smith was picked in the sixth round by the Titans in the 2010 draft.
A fourth former NFL player, Justin Geisinger, is the head coach at Pope John Paul II. Geisinger, who was a standout at Vanderbilt, was an offensive lineman in the NFL. He was picked in the sixth round by Buffalo in the 2005 draft.
Transition from NFL to high school
Martin was 28 when he became the head coach at CPA. He recognized early that he didn’t know it all in regards to coaching football or the sport.
“I needed a couple guys with gray hair to talk to,” said Martin, now 36. “The biggest thing is I didn’t know it all. I still don’t know it all.
“Good leaders will surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are. I have an unbelievable staff that is smarter than me.”
Smith first came to Grace Christian as an offensive coordinator when the Lions were playing eight-man football. The program transitioned to 11-man football when Smith took over as head coach.
Smith said the hardest part of his transition from professional athlete to high school coach was realizing that he was no longer dealing with professional athletes.
“We tried to implement some of the things I was doing, and we quickly said, ‘Wait, we have to pump the brakes on this,'” Smith said.
The concepts were too complex for high school kids.
“We don’t have near the meeting time. They are 14 through 17, and I was from the pro ranks,” Smith said. “That was probably the biggest and hardest part of the transition.”
Former pros bolster staffs
At least 15 former NFL players or assistants are on Nashville area staffs.
Brentwood Academy and Ravenwood have the most with three each.
Former Titans Rocky Calmus and Jason Mathews along with former Packers/Rams lineman Scott Wells are on Brentwood Academy’s staff.
Former Titans linebacker Ryan Fowler, retired longtime kicker David Akers and former Titans assistant Alan Lowry all have joined Ravenwood’s staff in recent years.
Fowler is the Raptors’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator.
“He’s pretty darn unique,” Ravenwood coach Matt Daniels said of Fowler. “He’s built relationships with the kids and they trust him. They don’t think about his NFL experience.”