RIVERSIDE — It’s been several years since Gerry Faust roamed the football sidelines, but the legendary high school and college coach still has a very valuable message for young football players of today.
On Tuesday night, Faust, 80, spoke to a group of Carroll High School football players, fans and well wishers about “Faith, Family, Friends and Football.”
He spoke primarily to members of the Carroll football team, who were seated in the stands in matching blue uniforms.
“If you truly work hard at this sport, listen to your coaches and give it your all, you can have a terrific football season,” Faust said. “I see a lot of potential talent in these seats here today. … If you work hard, put your team first and focus on one game at a time, you could have an amazing season.
“I’m not too wild about your tattoo,” he chuckled, pointing at one player. “And those earrings will have to go, too. I’ll talk you out of wearing those before I leave,” he said to another player, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Faust served as head football coach at Notre Dame University from 1981 to 1985, then finished his collegiate coaching career at the University of Akron from 1986 to 1994. But it was his success at high school football powerhouse Cincinnati Moeller that brought him into the college ranks.
From 1962 to 1980, Faust’s Moeller Crusader football teams won 178 games, lost just 23 and tied two others. Moeller won five Ohio Division I or AAA big school championships (1975-‘77, and in 1979-‘80). The team amassed a 70-1 record during those championship years and was awarded four high school national titles.
He told the Patriots players about some of the lesser known Moeller kids he’d coached, and had to cut. And he described those players’ triumphs as they battled back from adversity to go on to successful athletic and business careers. Faust mentioned them by name during his speech, but asked that their last names not be reported, because he didn’t want to risk embarrassing those same people today.
There was Pete, who served in Vietnam in the Army. The former Moeller player was a squad commander and wrote to Faust saying that he chose not to retreat in one particular battle, ‘because coach Faust would have my butt if I ever gave up.’ So despite difficult odds, Pete and his men held their ground, won the battle and didn’t lose a man.
“Never quit. Stick with it and always work at it,” was Faust’s message.
He mentioned another former player who excelled, even though Faust asked him to move to another position other than his favorite one. “He was willing to give up his position in order to help make the team better. He put the team first, himself second,” Faust said.
There were other stories as well, including that of a small kid named Wayne, whom Faust allowed on the team as a favor to one of the parish priests. “This kid was about 5-foot tall and had a damaged arm and couldn’t run or tackle. So I told him, ‘Wayne, if you kick 150 footballs through the uprights for 365 days a year, I’ll make you our placekicker next year.’”
Wayne converted 39 of 41 extra points the next season, drilled 13 field goals (in 16 tries) and earned a full-ride scholarship to the University of Virginia where he kicked the winning field goal to upset Tennessee one year.
“Whatever it is, overcome your handicap. Don’t let it or anyone else keep you from pursuing your dreams,” Faust said. “Never give in, and always do your best in everything you do.”
Carroll will begin the Greene County-area’s 2015 high school football season when they open the season at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 with a Thursday evening game against Meadowdale, at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.