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Respect ranks high

Rock Bridge football coach A.J. Ofodile has taught his team hard work gets big results
Thursday, November 2, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:53 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

When Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile took over in 2003, he ditched the school’s plain solid white and solid green jerseys.

He wanted to create a new image for the Bruins.

[photo]

Coach A.J. Ofodile gave the Bruins’ football program a different style and helped the team become one of the most respected in the state.

(LYLE WHITWORTH/Missourian)

He thought the team should be flashy, fresh and fun. The team designed a new logo and adopted more modern uniforms with streaks of yellow and patches of black. Meanwhle, Ofodile also opened up the offense, rejecting the conservative double tight end, two-back offense for more modern formations.

Rock Bridge’s style is now recognized across the state. Although Rock Bridge will not achieve its goal of winning the Class 6 state title this season, Ofodile, the coaching staff and players have established a successful, respected high school football program during the past four seasons.

The players Ofodile first coached will play their final game tonight. Twenty-two seniors will suit up for tonight’s game against Oak Park at 7 in Kansas City. They are at ease around Ofodile. But once the 6-foot-6 former NFL tight end intimidated them.

Running back Scott Concannon started at cornerback as a freshman. He said Ofodile got angry during his first year.

“It was in a good way,” Concannon said. “It wasn’t like he was threatening to kill us or anything.”

Left guard and defensive tackle Jason Reddy agrees. He started at nose guard as a freshman. He said Ofodile made starters accountable.

“If (players) were not willing to come out and give it all they got,” Reddy said, “you were going to get replaced.”

As sophomores, Concannon, Reddy, quarterback Logan Gray and fellow teammates watched upperclassmen skip voluntary workouts. Drugs and alcohol, the universal vices in high school, tempted them.

“They looked around them and saw how not to do it,” Ofodile said. “From the beginning, they said they really didn’t want to make their legacy on something that really doesn’t mean anything.”

Ofodile was honest with his younger players and told them what they could accomplish with hard work and determination.

They ignored their older teammates and listened to their coach. Reddy said the group pledged to lift weights, get in shape and devote themselves to the sport.

“We said we’re going to make this program what it really should be with our talent,” Reddy said.

Ofodile did not have to talk much to convince his players. He let them play.

Many started as sophomores.

“They took their lumps,” Ofodile said, “and that’s all it took.”

Ofodile and his coaching staff worked even harder than the players. Justin Conyers, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, spends many hours with Ofodile. He not only watches film with him, but the two also teach physical education together. They talk football during class and between class. When they are not teaching or coaching, they attend coaching clinics at MU or in St. Louis.

But Conyers cannot match Ofodile’s work schedule. The coach is the first to show up to school and the last to leave.

Not even Ofodile’s wife gets in the way during the season. When Conyers got married, Ofodile had some advice for him.

“I tell my wife that during (the season), ‘Give me 10 to 12 weeks of just my time, so I can get this done,’” he told Conyers.

Ofodile and Conyers are amazed at how much they continue to learn about football. Several weeks ago, when they were watching film from last season’s game against Liberty, they could not believe how different the team looked.

“We both looked at each other,” he said, “and we were like, ‘Wow.’”

Ofodile has also grown personally. He said he is more patient and introspective. He knows how high school players develop and how to motivate them more effectively.

The hard work has provided players with opportunities to continue their careers. Three seniors have earned Division-I scholarships. Concannon has orally committed to Northwestern, and quarterback Logan Gray and tight end Aron White have done the same with Georgia. More players should get scholarship offers, including Reddy, linebackers Andrew Adams and John Wacker, cornerback Mukai Matsiga and wide receiver Brandon Gerau.

The results have been impressive, and younger players want to emulate the success. More players showed up at the team’s first official practice than during any of his previous seasons, Ofodile said.

“It’s a huge change,” Reddy said. “And the younger guys look up to the older guys.”

Ofodile will impart lessons to another group next season. The players who earned this year’s No. 1 state ranking and Top 25 national ranking will not be around. But regardless of who lines up for him, Ofodile will continue to embrace the ideals he preaches.

“There’s nothing like committing to something, putting the work in and seeing yourself improve,” he said.


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