Hickman assistants step up in Arnel Monroe's absence

Assistants helped carry out duties in his absence
Thursday, October 24, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:04 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 24, 2013
Assistant coach Ryan Nesbitt watches members of the Hickman High School football team practice hits Wednesday at Hickman High School. Nesbitt and fellow assistant coach Craig Seymour have temporarily replaced head coach Arnel Monroe while he's under Columbia Public School investigation.

*UPDATE: This story has been updated with new information provided by the school district.

COLUMBIA — Hickman football coach Craig Seymour has a commitment before practice.

Classes end at Hickman High School, and Seymour has bus duty. He funnels the congestion out of the parking lot's traffic, directs vehicles and waves to people as they go by at the end of their day.

Tending to this makes Seymour roughly five minutes late for his next commitment.

*Seymour took on an expanded coaching role in the absence of head coach Arnel Monroe.Monroe will return to his teaching and coaching duties, the school district announced Thursday morning. He will return for the senior night football game on Friday.

*Monroe has been away from the team since Oct. 14, for reasons that he and administrators have not disclosed. In an e-mail statement Thursday, Michelle Baumstark, community relations director for the school district, said concerns regarding the coach had been reviewed.

"The school district is confident that Coach Monroe committed no wrongdoing and fully supports him as a member of the Hickman High School community," the e-mail stated.

In Monroe's absence, the program maintained its structure. All the assistants took on expanded roles, especially Seymour.

"We really haven't changed too much. We wanted to keep it as is," said Ryan Nesbitt, a defensive assistant coach and 2005 Hickman graduate. "The only difference is Craig has been the one to address the kids before and after practice. He's done a really good job of relaying messages and keeping the kids focused on playing football."

Seymour has a set of duties to the school and, for them, he is inevitably late to practice on this Tuesday. He steps into the coaches' office briefly and is in a hurry to the practice field.

"I'm not much for conversation," he says kindly as he comes out of the office.

Hickman is scheduled to host Rockhurst for its Homecoming game Friday, and Monroe would typically be the one talking to the media. But since last week, Hickman administrators have not allowed Monroe to speak to the media, according to Missourian reporting.

Monroe did not travel with the team to Jackson on Friday. It was his staff at the helm of the thrilling 34-27 overtime win.

"A lot of these guys, whether it's Craig or (defensive assistant) Ryan (Nesbitt), they've been in this program, they've played in this program, they know what it takes to be here," said Hickman athletic director Doug Mirts. "Craig knows what it takes, so it's not a difficult transition for him to step in that role and assume the responsibilities he needs to. He has a passion for this program, he has pride in this program."

Seymour gets to talking as he starts his walk to the field out of the locker room.

"We've followed the structure he set up for us," Seymour says of Monroe. "We're doing the exact same thing he would've done if he were here. We haven't changed anything up at all."

But the situation has forced change.

"Ever since my freshman year, I've always had Coach (Monroe) there," senior quarterback Mason Murray said. "This past week has been hard for us, but we've found ways to get past it and focus on just ourselves."

Part of that focus for the players, Murray said, has been achieved through the coaching they've received.

"We tried to go about it as business as usual, to make it have as little of an impact as we could and to draw as little attention to it as we could," Nesbitt said of Monroe's absence leading up to the Jackson game, "and I think Coach Seymour did a really nice job."

After games, it is usually Monroe speaking to his players. But after Friday's win, it was Seymour. He stood before them after the emotional win and told them he had tears in his eyes.

Seymour's not one to give himself any sort of credit. He prefers "they" or "we," not "I." It's the way Monroe spoke in the previous seven weeks of the season. Monroe had frequently referred to the coaching staff as "a unit."

"They're a very cohesive group," Mirts said. "With or without all parts, they come together and they rally around the game and the kids."

Seymour is asked about his role, how things have changed for him over the past weeks. He's asked if he feels something more now, more inspiration maybe, perhaps more responsibility.

He's moving quick to get to the field, where players are doing the normal stretch routine they've always done before any practice.

He shrugs.

"I just come out and do my job every day," he says.

Supervising editor is Erik Hall.

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