Lessons from the Masters – Toriano Porter

Toriano Porter is a journalist and writer. He has written two books, The Pride of Park Avenue and James Cool. I recruited Toriano (a defensive back) out of Eureka High School in St. Louis, while defensive coordinator at the University of Central Missouri.

Toriano is black.

I am white.

I was raised in a loving environment, an environment that showed respect for all races.

I watched and admired Dr. Martin Luther King growing up, and our house was shocked and saddened by his loss.

I sang folk songs by Peter, Paul and Mary, and Dylan.

The neighborhood I grew up in was almost exclusively white (1960’s Ruskin Heights in Kansas City, MO) as was the city we moved to prior to my high school days (1970’s Blue Springs, MO).

I went to college at a private Liberal Arts school (William Jewell College, Liberty, MO) that was almost exclusively white.

My first teaching/ coaching jobs were Blue Springs (1979-1982) Odessa, MO (1982-1984) and Osceola, MO (1984-1987)… white, white and white.

I left Osceola for the college ranks, spending ten seasons at the University of Central Missouri and four as head coach at William Jewell College.

Central Missouri was not exclusively white. It was really my first experience in teaching and coaching in this type of multi-cultural setting.

I loved it.

We had great players, black and white, urban and suburban, that worked hard and responded to my coaching style.

I worked hard at my craft. Part of being a good coach is “knowing” your athletes… developing a relationship with them… knowing how to push their motivational “hot button”.

I thought that I could, and was, accomplishing this with all of my athletes.

Heck, I recruited St. Louis and Kansas City. East St. Louis, Illinois and Kansas City, Kansas were some of the roughest areas in the country…. and I walked the halls, and talked to students in schools there.

I sat in living rooms while recruiting, visiting with families in urban St. Louis and Kansas City.

I talked to all of my athletes… “How are your classes going?” … “How is your family doing?

I thought I understood the challenges of being a young, black, student… of being a young black man… in Kansas City, St. Louis, or Warrensburg, Missouri.

As I mentioned, I was a product of the 60’s… MLK… “Blowing in the Wind

park avenueIt really wasn’t until I read Toriano’s first book, The Pride of Park Avenue, in 2009, that I realized that I didn’t have a clue… I had (and still have) NO idea what it was, or is like, growing up as a black man in the United States.  I don’t think I ever can truly or fully understand.

The Pride of Park Avenue is part autobiography, part fiction. Toriano’s narrative details, vividly, what it was like growing up in St. Louis, and his experiences at UCM. There is no complaining, whining, judging or blaming coming from Toriano… just authentic, gritty, stories of his journey.

Reading this narrative made me realize how completely different Toriano’s experience was from mine. It gave me an appreciation as to the relative ease of the path I was given…. a middle class white youth in the suburbs.   It also gave me an appreciation of Toriano’s accomplishments.

Toriano is c26913_1354892281581_7232202_nurrently a Business/ Education reporter at the Lee’s Summit Journal and will release his third book, The Plain Ugly Truth, some time this year.

Toriano is a master… and the lessons he provided me are tough… and ones that I am till trying to learn… daily.

Related Posts:

You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It!

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com

Seven Days in Season

cmsu football25 years ago, during the 1989 football season at Central Missouri State University (now named the University of Central Missouri) Mark Hulet filmed a documentary chronicling a week in the life of a college football coach. The name of the movie was Seven Days in Season.

Mark went on to become a successful college football coach himself, coaching with me at the University of Central Missouri as defensive back coach, at William Jewell College as defensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator at St. Cloud State University.

The 40 minute movie is classic, and offers a pretty realistic glimpse into the life of a football coach at any level. If for no other reason, it is worth watching to get a good laugh at the fashions and technology of the 80’s.



You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It!

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com

NCAA DII Football and Geography

Last week the NCAA announced that beginning in 2014 and running through 2017, the NCAA DII Championship Football Game will be held in Sporting Park, in Kansas City.  The game has been held for the previous 26 years in Florence, Alabama.   They have done a great job of hosting the event, and the phrases “Getting to Braly Stadium” or “Making the trip to Florence Alabama” have become motivation for many DII schools.  So it is tinged with a hint of nostalgic regret that the contest is being relocated… but only a hint!

Here are the reasons that I think this will be a great move for the contest and NCAA DII football.

It is in my back yard!

Although actually in Kansas City, Kansas, the venue for this event, Sporting Park, is less than 15 minutes from my home in Kansas City, MO.

The location is closer to participating schools and conferences

Kansas City sits geographically in the middle of two NCAA DII conferences – the always-strong MIAA, (Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association) and the newly formed GLVC (Great Lakes Valley Conference).  It also is in striking distance of two other power NCAA DII Conferences, the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), and the NSIC (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference).

DII champions

In the last 16 years, the MIAA, GLIAC or NSIC has had a representative (or two) in the title game all but 4 years.  Out of the 34 participants in the championship contest over the past 17 years, 2/3 of the schools are closer (23 out of 34) to Kansas City than Florence, Alabama.

NCAA DII schools have a great following in this area.  The annual Fall Classic held at Arrowhead Stadium, which pits Northwest Missouri State University against Pittsburg State University (KS), typically draws more than 20,000 fans and drew a record 26,695 fans in 2004.

Sporting Park is a great venue.

Sporting Park, home of the MLS Champions, Sporting KC, is a state-of-the-art facility that was completed in 2011.  The venue will seat nearly 20,000 for the contest, and includes 2 video boards, a club level, 3 TV and 4 radio commentary booths, and is fully lighted for HDTV.  The stadium is adjacent to the Kansas Speedway and is located 15 minutes from downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

This can be a showcase for DII football and athletics.

People will come to, fans will support, and media will cover this contest.  The population of the KC metro area is 2.34 million people.   While Florence Alabama is nice city and did a great job of hosting the championship game the last 26 years, its population is less than 40,000.   Florence is not a destination… the attendance at the game hovers around 6,000 and seldom gets above 8,000 in attendance.  I think playing in Kansas City will give many more people an opportunity to see the outstanding football that is being played at the NCAA DII level. (see recruiting post – Expanding Your Pool)

On a side note

Regarding the nostalgia, excitement and hospitality of playing in Florence Alabama, I can speak from experience after coaching for 14 years at the NCAA II level.  While not making the trip to Florence for the Championship Game, when I was at the University of Central Missouri,  we did journey to Braly Stadium to play North Alabama in 1992.  We ended up losing that game 17-16 when we blocked a field goal attempt by North Alabama that did not cross the LOS…. they picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown to win the game.  North Alabama went on to the NCAA quarterfinals that year and were DII National Champions the following three seasons, 1993,1994 and 1995.

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com

You Reap What You Sow

Those things you spend time practicing, talking to your players about, and teaching, you will improve on.  True story….

reap sowDuring the spring of 1992, our defensive coaching staff at the  University of Central Missouri took a learning trip to several universities, including Oklahoma State University, to learn more about the 4-3 Defense they were running.  Billy Miller was the defensive coordinator at the time, and OSU had a history with the 4-3 that could be traced back to Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wannstedt.


We were able to spend some great meeting time with their staff and then watched a couple of their spring practices.  At their first practice they ran a crazy drill that Coach Miller had warned us about – they called it the fumble score drill, and is diagramed below.

fumble score drill

It was a spirited, high-energy drill, and all the coaches and players were having fun with it.  As a defensive staff we decided that we would implement the drill, but I knew as defensive coordinator that I would have to do some “selling” to get our head coach to agree that it would be productive practice time.

When we talked to our head coach, Terry Noland, about the drill, we told him all of the great fundamentals that we would be working on.; footwork and pad level while we were going over the bags, and the correct technique of recovering a fumble.  We talked about how recovering the fumble was job #1 – everything else was secondary.  We taught that if they were in any traffic at all, or had any difficulty recovering the ball, do not attempt to scoop and run, but curl and recover. We kind of glossed over the whole idea of defensive lineman and linebackers pitching the ball to a teammate part of the drill!

We implemented the drill during our pre-season camp, and ran it at least once a week.  It became one of our weekly team defensive drills.  Just as it was with OSU, it was a high energy drill that the athletes and coaches both had fun with.  One day, as a big lumbering defensive lineman recovered a fumble and pitched it to another, big lumbering defensive lineman, our head coach came over and said something on the order of “this is all well and good, but the first time we lose the ball when a DL tries pitching it, you will have some explaining to do.”

Our first game that season, 1992, was against the University of North Alabama, who would go on the become National Champions that year.  In the second quarter, on an option play, our corner made a jarring tackle on their RB out in the flat.  Our safety scooped up the ball and raced down the field until the QB caught him.  Right before going down, he pitched the ball to the corner who ended up taking it into the end zone for the TD and the go-ahead score.  We ended up losing that game 16-17, but defensively gained great confidence.

Over the next 4 weeks our defense scored a TD in a 10-7 win vs Missouri Southern State University and another in a 24-10 win vs Southwest Baptist University.  Against Northwest Missouri State University in our 5th game that season we set up a score in a 10-7 win.

By this point in the season, the fumble score drill became the high point of our practice.  Even if we wanted to eliminate the drill, our players would have revolted.  They believed!  They believed that because we were doing this drill each week, we were scoring defensive touchdowns.

The bottom line – we talked about recovering fumbles and taught the correct way to do it.  We talked about scoring on defense and taught the correct way to do it.  After 5 games into the season, we had scored 3 TD’s and set up another score for our offense. The previous season we scored exactly zero touchdowns!

What seeds are you sowing with your players?  What crop do you want to reap next fall?

Comments and Questions are always welcome

Remember – You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It!

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com