Pro Football Hall of Fame Academy visits Fort Knox High School for unique opportunity

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Gold Standard Editor
The Eagles football team at Fort Knox High School received some coaching for three days last week that most high schools would pay good money for.
Four experts in football from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Academy in Canton, Ohio walked onto the Eagles campus and provided a hands-on football clinic designed just for the Eagles.
The gridiron greats are Pro and College Football Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson; four-time Super Bowl champion coach Brian Pariani; Chuck Bresnahan, a former Navy linebacker who has coached college and pro football teams for 32 years; and Chuck Roesler, who played with Notre Dame as a lineman and now works as the lineman national director at the academy.
“I have been tracking the Fort Knox Eagles football team for many years now and realized that they were going through some more challenges than most high school teams,” said Rich McGuiness, director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Academy. “For one, their participation numbers aren’t great. Two, they won’t have a lot of athletes here for four years like other high schools. Given that their parents are out there serving the country, they were as good a team as any to go help out.”
McGuiness said while they work exclusively with one thousand of the greatest high school athletes every year, they recognize there are high schools that need a helping hand, so each year, the academy chooses one school to which they provide specialized coaching.
This year, “this was the one,” said McGuiness.
McGuiness said part of their decision to come to Fort Knox had to do with the Eagles’ history.
The Eagles captured three Kentucky state championships during an eight-year span that began in 1983. Times have changed, though. They haven’t had a winning season since 2002,
something the new head coach
of the Eagles is keen to erase.
Wes Arnold took over the position of head coach in May and has since been working to build support and a solid coaching staff that will lay the groundwork for his two main goals in this first season.
“We’re a very senior-loaded team, so we have a lot of experience and age,” said Arnold. “One goal is to have a winning season. That hasn’t happened here since 2002. Another goal is to become the two-seed in the district. If you get the two-seed, you get a home playoff game.”
Arnold said having the academy coming along at this time and encouraging the young athletes has been a big boost to them all.
“These guys coming in from an NFL perspective have made me feel good because they’re saying, ‘That’s what you need to be doing. You’re doing the
right thing,’” Arnold said.
“These guys are hearing the same stuff that we’ve been preaching but now from the NFL guys. This is really reinforcing what we’re trying to do.”
The academy coaches arrived mid-week last week and started the camp by providing the Eagles some performance testing and classroom time. By the afternoon, the Eagles took to the field to practice what they had learned.
On day 2, Woodson talked to the team about the importance of living a life of character.
“It’s football,” Woodson said. “Football can teach kids a lot of different things. It can give them respect, commitment, responsibility, how to work hard, how to fight adversity — if they let it.”
Woodson said he grew up as a military brat with his dad serving in the U.S. Army and several other relatives serving in other branches of the military, so he understands what the team is going through. It was also a reason to be on the field with the Eagles.
“I was given a lot of knowledge as a youth early in my career, through high school, college and the pros,” said Woodson. “To give that back to different communities around the country; it’s been fun. Anytime I get to come and see, and pay respect to the forces that keep us safe, giving back to their kids — it’s an easy give-back for me.”
After more class time, the team took to the field again and broke up into four squads for personalized instruction and coaching on the positions they will play at the start of the season.
The camp culminated on day 3 with a 7-on-7 tournament hosted by the academy where Eagles got the opportunity to put their lessons to the test against some area schools who took the challenge.
As a Naval Academy graduate and former Navy officer, Bresnahan said it was a privilege to work with the Eagles.
“This is an incredible opportunity for all of us, but being a former military person myself, to do anything with our troops and help our troops and their families is incredible,” said Bresnahan. “Football has been so good to me. My dad coached my whole life growing up, so I’ve been bred into the sport. To be able to give back and promote such a great sport that not just teaches you how to win and lose on the field, but teaches you life lessons, we look forward to these opportunities.”
Living and working just up the road in Louisville, Roesler
told members of the Eagles line that he would be coming back down to see them when they play against the Fort Campbell Falcons later in the year.
“Football’s done a lot for myself and my family. This is my way through the Pro Football Hall of Fame Academy to give some of it back,” said Roesler. “This reminds me of my high school. In my high school, we had 37 players between the varsity and JV, so I never left the field. I understand what these guys are going through.
“The fact that their parents are serving our country, the second [McGuiness] asked me to come here I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m here!’ Roesler continued. “These kids are respectful, they’re humble, they’re working hard – I’ve already seen in two days great progression with them. When you’ve got a group like that, it’s a blessing.”
Arnold said he is under no delusion about what he faces ahead.
“I knew what challenges are here. If you come from outside the gate, it’s kind of a wake-up call. I already knew, being here, having already coached here, teaching here. I know what challenges we face and I think I have a plan to help us overcome those challenges,” said Arnold. “It is an uphill challenge because you don’t know who’s coming and who’s going.”
McGuiness said he felt confident the Eagles have a shot at being a team to watch in the future, what he is affectionately calling “America’s Other Team.”
“This is a storied, proud program that we had learned was a state championship team, produced great NFL players and that was maybe 25 years ago,” McGuiness said. “We’re just trying to bring the magic back with Coach Wes, who has done a wonderful job rebuilding the program.
“In the end, success is going to be the biggest driver,” McGuiness concluded. “He’s got a lot of good athletes, a great coaching staff and the support of the Hall of Fame Academy. I think he’ll be more successful this year, and that will only increase participation.”