Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From Bill Snyder to Bob Stoops: Schlagle football coaching staff played, learned from the best


If you knew a coaching staff’s tree included names like Bill Snyder, Bob and Mike Stoops, Nick Saban, Bill Cowher and Gary Barnett, you would try to think which NFL or college staff they belonged to.

You would even begin to think about the number of national titles or Super Bowls in this circle.

Well, the answer is simple: zero.

This coaching staff is based in Wyandotte County and you can find them on Parallel Parkway in Kansas City, Kansas.

This is the staff new Schlagle Stallions head football coach Martez Wesley pieced together. Among this group you will find coaches who have learned under some of the best coaches in the nation.

Combined, the Stallions coaching staff owns 17 years of Division 1 and 12 years of professional playing experience in the NFL and AFL. This staff enters the season with a little pressure considering the Stallions return major pieces from a team that went 7-2 last season, winning the KCAL title.

Needless to say - expectations are high and many are keeping their eyes on the calls from the sidelines.

Wesley, the former Schlagle stand-out, takes over the program in his first head coaching opportunity on the gridiron. During his time in the Schlagle football program, he starred at both quarterback and wide receiver.

This success earned him a scholarship to Kansas State University, where he played under legendary coach Bill Snyder.

“Those days definitely prepared me for the challenges of coaching,” Wesley said. “Coach Snyder is one of the best in the business and seeing how he handled things helped shape my view on the type of coach I wanted to be. Seeing how he treated players as family and fairly with open communication is something I appreciated from coach and this policy is one I hope to transition to our young men.”

After his playing days at Kansas State, Wesley went on to play in the Arena League for the Macon Knights. After his playing career, he returned to the Kansas City area and began his coaching career, working at his alma mater.

Wesley spent the next seven years coaching under his former high school coach, Steve Szczygiel. From there, he moved on to Avila University, where he spent a season coaching the program there.

Before accepting the Schlagle job, he spent two seasons coaching for Blue Valley North under head coach John McCall. When former Stallions head coach Tim Dorian resigned to take the same position at Bishop Ward, Wesley again jumped at the opportunity to lead his school.

“I interviewed for the position previously when Coach Szczygiel retired,” stated Wesley.

When he accepted the head coaching position in May, Wesley knew he had a quick turnaround to build a staff heading into the summer workout period.

“I knew I had a short period of time to obtain highly qualified individuals to take on some of my key positions,” Wesley said. “I wanted a staff in which my main duties would focus on managing the program and leading the special teams, leaving those individuals the freedom to use their knowledge.”

He didn’t have to look far to fill his key positions. Many up and coming coaches typically already keep a running list of “target staffers”. This list holds the names of coaches you would reach out to if you ever garnered a head coaching job.

Luckily for Wesley, the two at the top of his list and a promising defensive coach were available and willing to join him on this ride.

Sam Simmons may ring a bell for many KCK sports junkies. Simmons led a potent Schlagle rushing attack through the late 90’s, even holding a place in the National High School Federation Record Book for a performance.

After a stellar career for the Stallions, he continued his playing career in the Big Ten conference at Northwestern University. After spending most of his prep career taking handoffs from quarterbacks, he began receiving the passes after switching to wide receiver during his freshman year.

Simmons was on the receiving in of one of the most memorable plays in Northwestern history, catching a Hail Mary on the final play of a comeback victory against Minnesota.

This last season, Simmons led the program at Coronado Middle School, another of his alma maters and had great success. When Wesley put in for the open position, one of his first calls was to Sam.

“Sam and I both wanted the position, but we also knew it didn’t matter who got the job, we just wanted it to be one of us,” Wesley said.

“When Martez was offered the position and accepted, it really was an easy decision for me,” Simmons said. “The opportunity to work with young men at a higher level and play a role in helping them get scholarships is huge. This also gives me a glimpse from Wesley in what it takes to run a program, from learning about the rules to dealing with budgets has been a learning experience that will assist me down the road.”

One thing that excites Wesley about Simmons is the intangibles he brings to the table.

“Sam is highly offensive minded and he develops great schemes to put the athletes in positions to be successful”, said Wesley, who credits this to his days at Northwestern. “As a running back it was crucial for me to recognize defensives fronts. When I moved to wide receiver, it switched to understanding coverage.”

As the offensive coordinator, Simmons says one thing he brings with him from Northwestern is the acronym “K.I.S.S.” (keep it simple stupid).

“We want to play fast, we want to play physical and if we do this, we can be successful,” Simmons said. “I tell people I may not be the smartest man in the room, but I’m a student of the game and nobody will outwork me.”

This was one of the qualities Wesley was looking for in a staff. He’s been pleased with the Simmons work ethic thus far.

“He’s a teacher of the game and that is exactly what we want on this staff,” Wesley said.
Around the corner from Schlagle, one of the defensives he had to run through was at Washington High School. In the mid 90’s, the Wildcats featured a linebacker who was known to “bring the noise.”

Darius Lomax remembers playing against both Wesley and Simmons in high school; now he embraces the opportunity to team up with them.

Lomax was a standout linebacker for the Washington Wildcats before heading to The University of Kansas and playing for former Jayhawks head coach Glen Mason. He recalls previous conversations with Wesley about teaming up again that goes back almost 10 years.

“I had the opportunity to coach with Martez here at Schlagle back in 2004 under coach Steve Szczygiel,” Lomax said. “We developed a relationship and as time developed and situations took place, it worked out for this opportunity to come to about.”

During his time with the Jayhawks, Darius played both inside and outside linebacker. However, it was the small things away from the action he enjoys sharing.

“I learned at KU what it meant to be a teammate, which can get lost at times,” he said. “I learned the need to develop a level of maturity and the need to take care of business. These are things I’m sharing with these young men every day.”

For Wesley, Lomax was an easy choice for the staff.

“I knew Darius would be a great addition to this staff,” Wesley said. “He is an extremely intense individual and a great teacher of technique. He has a competitive edge within himself that won’t be matched by many.”

Lomax seeks to replicate the passion of his former coaches like Eddie Minor and fellow gridiron mates like Laron Cobbins.

“Coach Minor, along with Coach McCarty, always prepared me for competition,” Lomax said. “Cobbins, after his time at Wyandotte and during his years at Notre Dame, would come back in the summers and help teach the up and comers. This is why I love this opportunity. It affords me the opportunity to give back to the community I grew up in and hopefully make an impact.”

The last of this celebrated coaching staff may not be as familiar as Wesley, Simmons and Lomax.

That is unless you are a Kansas State Wildcat fan of the late 90’s.

Roaming the secondary for those great teams was all Big XII defensive back Lamar Chapman. After Chapman’s career at Kansas State, he was a 5th-Round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns.

“Of course I knew Chap from K-State, but what’s funny is we actually met while playing together at the Shrine Bowl,” recalls Wesley. “Having to go against each other daily in practice at K-State and seeing his work ethic, I knew he would be a great coach someday. When the opportunity came for me to call him I didn’t hesitate. When you have a chance to add a guy who learned from the likes of Bob and Mike Stoops, how can you pass on that opportunity?”

Chapman will serve as the defensive coordinator and coach the defensive backs for Wesley’s Stallions defense.

“I’m excited to join Martez’s staff,” said Chapman, originally from Liberal, Kan. “Our friendship goes back more than 15 years and when he approached me about the opportunity, I didn’t have to think twice about it.”

One thing you should expect from the Schlagle defense is a mixture of things Chapman learned while at K-State and his stint with the Cleveland Browns.

“We’re not going to be as complex of course, but we will coach them up,” Chapman says. “We will play hard, play disciplined and prepare well.”

He credits the likes of Snyder and Stoops with this philosophy.

“I definitely credit them in teaching us how to prepare and pay attention to every detail on the field and in film,” said Lamar. “You hear this stressed from all of our coaches and we will continue to stress this to these young men because it is not just a football thing but a life thing.”

This mindset is a common theme with the members of the Schlagle coaching staff.

“We know some of the young men don’t have a father figure and need direction,” Chapman said. “We’re essentially in the business of building relationships to help mold and direct them into situations to allow them to be successful and hopefully college becomes a viable option with football as the tool.”

In their short time together, things are already paying off well for Wesley’s staff.

“One of the things I needed to know right away was would this staff be able to work together,” Wesley said. “When you bring a group together with so much knowledge and talent, it can be risky but I’ve seen nothing but positives. We go back further than many really know, I remember Chap hosting Lomax on his recruiting trip to K-State.”

Along with the new names at Schlagle, familiar faces from last year’s coaching staff will return.

“Coach Byrd who plays a huge role on our staff,” Wesley said. “He is the other coach in the building and assists with our training program. We also have coaches Wallace, Lowry, and Scott, who have contributed greatly to getting our guys to buy into what we’re now trying to do. My job becomes easier when you have men committed and bought in to your program.”

With the great background of the coaches at F.L. Schlagle High School comes the opportunity to coach against each other during practice. Wesley and his staff believe this has helped prepare them for what could be a special season for the Schlagle Stallions.

“Coaching against the likes of Darius and Chap in practice has been a huge help,” Simmons said. “The insight they give from the defensive perspective helps me game plan for the offensive side and they help me see things I may not had seen otherwise”.

With such great talent returning, including all-state running back candidate J’veyon Browning, it’s hard to tell if there will be more pressure on the players or the coaches.

“We’re definitely up for the challenge”, said Wesley. “Regardless of our background and knowledge, we will put them in the best position to be successful and if they work hard we will be ok and we as coaches will be satisfied.”