Gerald’s mission: build a winning programBy JAMES PHILLIPS,
Make no mistake, Sean Gerald accepted the job as head football coach at Morton High School to build a winning football program, but simply winning football games is not his only goal. Gerald, and his Panther coaching staff, are working to development young men who are winners in life who also bring home victories on the football field.
Prior to Gerald’s hiring, MHS suffered through back to back losing seasons. Morton has never had a shortage of talent or the full support of the community, but it was clear that MHS needed to find the right fit in a leader and coach. It’s clear that the players and community believe that have found just that in Gerald.
As soon as Gerald set foot on the MHS campus he immediately started working to change the culture surrounding Panther football. “The immediate goals when I started were to completely change the culture of the program and the mindset of our players,” Gerald said. “We had to change the way practice and prepare. When I arrived our practice, effort was just not where it needed to be, but we have really made good strides over the summer and we are almost where we need to be.”
In order to rebuild the program from the ground up, there were a number of changes that needed to be made. Gerald wasted no time in identifying and addressing those areas while holding his players accountable for every facet of the MHS program.
“Accountability is every bit as important as the culture, and when you teach players to hold one another accountable they themselves are more accountable,” Gerald said. “I explained clearly from the beginning that I demand a lot out of my players, and it was slow to start, but our players have really bought in to the dedication and the team. It’s a tough spot being a leader, but we have a core group of guys that have rose to the challenge and are becoming leaders of this team. By the end of the summer we had 60 players showing up to early morning workouts every day.”
The new coach has also started a book study with his team. The members of the team, lead by the coaches, are studying “Authentic Manhood” which is a study about how to be a good man in life, because that is really the ultimate goal. Gerald said that he is interested in the individual kids and not just the football players, and that he wants everyone on his team to come out a good enough man that he would let them date his daughter.
In order for Coach Gerald to institute a complete culture change there were other parts of the football program that needed attention as well. The facilities, equipment and stadium were in need of updating, and the MHS coaching staff has worked long hard hours to correct these issues.
On numerous occasions Gerald reiterated that he, and the coaching staff, demand a lot of the Panther players, but he firmly believes that those who put in the work deserve to be rewarded with the best facilities and equipment available.
“We demanded a lot of our players this summer in preparing every day in the heat, and they responded with giving their best effort,” Coach Gerald said. “Our players are putting in the hard work and they deserve to have the best available.
“We demand maximum effort and greatness out of our guys, and we are going to spoil them for their hard work. I want them to feel like they have the best of everything, and I want them to have pride in everything they have,” Gerald said.
In order to update the football facilities at MHS Gerald has been proactive in getting the Morton community and former Panther players involved in the program rebuild. From all accounts, both the community and the former players have been excited to join in and to be part of the MHS football program.
With the help of the community, former players, sponsors and the MHS Touchdown Club, Gerald has made numerous updates and upgrades to the field house, weight room and football stadium. MHS is also in the process of building a new entrance to the stadium that is currently under construction.
One of the former players that has been an instrumental part of the football program rebuild is former Panther Deuce McAllister. The former New Orleans Saints great, and NFL pro bowler, was happy to join in and help Gerald in his mission to bring Panther football back to winning and playing for championships.
“Coach Hollis put me in contact with Deuce and he has been a big part of everything we are doing from that moment,” Gerald said. “He calls me at least once a week and we talk about football and the Morton community. We agreed in the beginning that we not only wanted to bring change to the football team, but we also want to make a difference in the Morton community.”
McAllister set up two separate trips to New Orleans for the MHS football program. During the first trip in July, all the football players in middle school and high school traveled to Louisiana to spend the day at the New Orleans Saints’ training facilities during spring training for the pros.
McAllister treated all the players and coaches to an all expenses paid meal at his New Orleans restaurant while the team was in the Big Easy. The players were also treated to meeting current NFL great, and future NFL Hall of Famer, Drew Brees while they were at the Saints’ facilities.
On the second trip, McAllister made arrangements for the MHS coaching staff to spend two days working with the Saints’ coaching staff during training camp. Gerald said that it was all McAllister who set up both those trips and made those once in a lifetime opportunity a reality.
“I cannot say enough about what Deuce has done for this program just in the short time I have been here. He has been amazing, and gave us all the opportunity to do things we would have never had the chance to do as either players or coaches.”
Gerald’s vision to rebuild the MHS football program and culture is spreading throughout the community, and there is a growing excitement about the future of Panther football. The coach said that the community has really gotten behind him, the coaches and the players, and that together they are building a program that will produce fine young men who are winners both on the field and in the community.
“I plan to be here long term and I have long term goals for building this program consistent winners,” Gerald said. “We are working to build something special here at Morton, and the support from everyone has been amazing. To build a winning program long term it really takes the support of community and our community here in Morton is second to none.”
The Sean Gerald era begins this Friday night when the Panthers travel to Newton to take on the Tigers to open the 2019 football season.