High school coaches have joked that having a star recruit can be the death of them. For Ted Ginn Sr., it's something that pushed him forward.
His love for his players helped guide him through some dark days.
The Cleveland Glenville coach, who has sent dozens of players on to college and the NFL -- including his son Ted Jr., who plays for the Carolina Panthers -- went in for what he thought was a minor hernia surgery last year.
Doctors found pancreatic cancer -- a cancer so nasty that only five percent of those diagnosed survive.
It led to a long hospital stay, and an entire season away from his team. At Glenville, a school in inner-city Cleveland, the streets claim a lot more athletes than college football programs do. But Ginn’s drive to get his players to a better life was a force.
“That was the toughest part,” Ginn said. “I didn’t know I was that sick. I was sick more because I couldn’t be around my kids.
“Any time you’re incarcerated in a place where you can’t engage with what you do for a living, it’s tough. Missing it is what saved my life.”
Missing Ginn is what has ESPN 300 standouts Erick Smith and Marshon Lattimore said was the void of last season.
A perennial powerhouse, the Tarblooders finished with an 8-2 record and missed the Division I state playoffs. The record was good, but Glenville beat just one team with a winning record, and that squad was only 6-4.
The two losses? Those came to Catholic powerhouses Cleveland St. Ignatius and Lakewood St. Edward and weren’t even close.
“With him being away, we weren’t Glenville,” Smith said. “It didn’t feel like the usual team. Now that he’s here, it’s like we’re back.
“He changed the whole atmosphere of the team. It’s the little things. He doesn’t have to say anything. His presence has changed the attitude. He makes us want to be great. He’s pushing us.”
He’s pushing his kids to wait on committing to a college, which for some might be the hardest part. As colleges show interest, the lure of a coveted offer can be tantalizing to a teenager.
That’s not the Glenville way, even though Marcelys Jones was an exception, picking the Buckeyes early.
Ginn’s view is to let his players enjoy the college experience before choosing a university. Despite the pipeline to Ohio State the Tarblooders have created, they’ve sent a small army of players to other schools as well.
“That’s my grandpa,” said Lattimore, who considers his coach family. “He’s helped me since ninth grade.
“I lean on him all the time. I let him rest last year until he got better. We’ve had deep conversations, and it’s not just about football. It means a lot to have him back.”
Added Jones: “You really don’t have too many like him. To have him back in the community, to have him here, to have him back in our lives, it’s a big positive for our whole team. Everyone missed him when he was gone.”
Ginn is back and, so is his drive to see them succeed.
“It’s all about loving my kids, my program and my family and not being selfish and arrogant,” Ginn said. “You’re a dead man if you’re like that. It’s better to be seen, but not viewed.”
The fight is back in the battle-tested coach as well. He looks great and that determination to see his players win the game of life is even stronger.
As the interview drew to a close, Ginn looked over and grinned.
“I’m good,” he said, tilting his head back and letting out his trademark laugh.