Grateful Ginn feeling better, still aiming high

CLEVELAND — For Ted Ginn Sr.’s latest against-all-odds trick, he just might win a state football championship.

Even though he’s said that such championships aren’t the ultimate goal for his Cleveland Glenville program. Even though this Glenville team, for all its game-breaking ability and three blue-chip recruits, is relatively inexperienced and in many ways new to Ginn.

Even though Ginn wasn’t coaching last year because he was fighting pancreatic cancer, a fight most people don’t win.

Tonight at 7 p.m. at Canton Fawcett Stadium (SportsTime Ohio has the broadcast), 13-1 Glenville plays 14-0 Loveland for the Div. II state title. And Ginn, the former school security guard who’s made a new living out of helping young players use football to create better lives, will be smiling all the way.

“I’m great,” Ginn said this week of his health. “I’m breathing, I’m here, I couldn’t ask for anything better.

“I’m good. I have some shaky days but I can’t complain. I’m here and God is using me as an example.”

Ginn, 58, spent almost a week on life support last November. By spring, though, he was cleared to return to work and back with a group of young football players he said he watched grow up.

These kids grew up watching the likes of Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Donte Whitner, Robert Rose and Marcus Hall, just to name a few. The Glenville pipeline has delivered big-time talent to the college ranks, a bunch of it to Columbus. Nineteen Glenville players have signed letters of intent with Ohio State in the last 13 years. Almost 80 have gone on to play college football at some level during that time.

That’s why Ginn has said that his goals and those of his program go beyond winning a state title, though the goal tonight is certainly to extend the current win streak to 14 and become the first Cleveland Municipal School District team to win a state title.

“The state championship would be a huge accomplishment and it would mean so much to so many people,” Ginn said. “When I say it’s not the ultimate goal, I mean that we approach this with a different purpose. Why I coach and why I deal with young people is to help them be ready to become productive men, get an education, see what happens when people care and people work together.

“Winning the title, that would mean everything.”

In 2007, Ginn established the Ginn Academy, an all-male high school located near Glenville that’s open to at-risk youth from across Cleveland. There’s a dress code and a strict set of rules, and students who attend and succeed academically are welcome to participate in sports at Glenville or another CMSD school.

At Ginn Academy, the graduation rate is 95 percent. In CMSD as a whole, it’s less than 60 percent — and less than 10 percent of graduates attend a four-year college.

There have been years when 20 Glenville football players in the same class have gone on to college, and not just the names you might know at Ohio State and Michigan. They’ve gone to places like Wilmington and Mercyhurst, too.  

“Football gets in the way of the real job being done,” Ginn said. “We’re trying to get these young men to see and understand there’s a better way of life. We’re getting them into college, into the armed forces and trying to prepare them for real challenges.”

Glenville dropped into Div. II when the OHSAA went to seven divisions this season. The 2009 Glenville team played for the Div. I state title and after a difficult to explain late collapse, lost 16-15 to Hilliard Davidson. Ginn said winning in Div. II wouldn’t diminish the feat one bit.

“I wouldn’t care if it’s Division 16,” Ginn said. “What matters is you have the ability to engage kids for 15 weeks and try to accomplish something, try to keep them together and teach them something.

“Being here, it’s a hell of an accomplishment. Loveland has a great team. We’re going to go out and play and see if we can find a way to bring this thing home.