Ferriday coach teaches more than just football

Published 12:07 am Friday, October 19, 2007

FERRIDAY — Football becomes more than just football when it’s not measured by wins and losses but by how the kids playing the game become responsible young men.

And that is precisely how first time head coach for the Ferriday Trojans Freddie Harrison said he feels about his job.

Since being hired he has led the Trojans to a 7-0 start and ranked 10th in the Louisiana Prep Polls.

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“Success can be measured in many ways,” Harrison said. “I measure it on how these young men become better young men.”

Harrison was hired in July to take over a program that had better than average athletes and a winning tradition but needed direction.

His experienced was limited to assistant coaching jobs at Northwestern State University, West Lake High School, St. Louis Catholic School and Lake Charles-Boston.

He played quarterback at Northwestern State and had a stint with the Louisiana Swashbucklers of the Intense Football League.

Harrison said he knew coming in it would be a challenge for him because of the team’s past.

“We went through a lot in the past with all the changes,” senior quarterback Kendrick Harris said. “We lacked leadership during the summer.”

The hiring of Harrison brought mixed feelings for the team but the one consensus feeling was fear.

“With him being so young, we were scared he wouldn’t take this seriously,” Harris said. “But the first day he talked to us, he told us what he would do for us and he has stuck with it.”

Harrison promised such things as new equipment, team discipline and names on jerseys. All he wanted in return was for his team to believe and have trust in him.

“He built trust by just talking to us and being open with us,” Harris said. “He started on day one by just listening to us and asking us questions.”

Harrison started following through on his promises. The team got new uniforms and he brought in Walter Johnson, Ryan Garrison, Tron McCoy and James Davis to form a new coaching staff.

“He came through for us,” senior center Jerrell Hayes said. “He showed us he was man of his word.”

Harrison doesn’t take credit for it all. He said its been a group effort in changing the team’s attitude.

“We are hands on,” Harrison said. “I set no limitations on how far my staff can reach these kids.”

Harrison has created more than just a team. He has created a sense of accountability and family.

“There is a father and son relationship between (the team) and him,” junior Levier Pryor said. “He talks and helps us. He tells us the truth.”

Senior wide receiver Montrell Tennessee described the relationship as “coach is like a father and the assistant coaches are like uncles.”

Harrison knows the importance of presenting a role model for his team and leading them down the right path.

“Our motto is ‘Stay humble and meek,’” Harrison said. “My job is to make these kids understand what’s out there and learn to handle adversity.”

Harrison also wants his players to know there are plenty of opportunities out there if they are willing to work hard and go after them.

“I want these guys to be able to make negatives into positives,” Harrison said. “You have to use what God gives you for good.”

Through personal experiences, Harrison knows all too well about making positives out of negatives.

He lost his infant son this summer.

Born three months premature, doctors gave Harrison’s son only a few days to live. He died a month later.

“He kept fighting,” Harrison said. “To see him do that, I couldn’t be prouder as a father.”

He takes that experience and translates it to his team.

“I want them to know that when life throws curveballs at you, you can’t back down,” Harrison

said. “You have to take

it and make something good out of it.”

Harrison’s players take what he says to heart and now play for much more.

“We are playing for more than just a perfect season,” Harris said. “We don’t quite know what it is but it’s something bigger.”

Tennessee agreed.

“We play hard for our coach,” he said. “We put our heart and soul in it for him.”

When the Trojans take the field tonight, they put their undefeated record on the line against a much larger foe in class 4A Beau Chene.

“Being 7-0 is hard for a coach,” Harrison said. “I’m not the one that is 7-0, the kids are.”

Harrison said his team has to remember what got them this far and continue to put their trust in him.

“Coach is a man of his word,” Hayes said. “He taught us to never back down and rise to the occasion.”