CHRISTOPHER — Anthony Hargrove spent parts of nine seasons playing on the defensive line with various National Football League teams, including the St. Louis Rams, who drafted him in the third round in 2004.
Now, Hargrove, 33, is the Christopher-Zeigler-Royalton defensive coordinator and enjoying every minute of it.
The Port Charlotte, Florida native's daughter Amiah is a fifth-grader at Christopher.
"I wasn't planning to coach this year," Hargrove said. "After volunteering with the Marion High School team last year, I was just going to take this year off and work on some other things, but I had some good conversations with superintendent (Richard) Towers and he opened the door of opportunity for me, and the kids here have been great. They have all made me feel welcome."
Hargrove said he teaches basic communication skills on defense and offers as much encouragement as he can to the student-athletes.
"I yell a lot, because that's my personality, but I told the kids that I'm not yelling out of anger to them," he said. "I just want to help them be the best they can be. I want to see them play a little faster on defense, and to do that, they have to understand what we're asking them to do. They have to understand various offensive and defensive techniques. It's about seeing the game a little clearer than they did before."
Hargrove said he has no head coaching aspirations at this time.
"I'm just thrilled to be where I am at: here in Christopher working with coach (Josh) McCurren," he said. "I don't have to be a head coach to teach kids how to compete."
McCurren is thrilled to have Hargrove on staff. It's much easier to get the players' attention with a former NFL player lending a hand.
"I think we are very fortunate to have Anthony," McCurren said. "Last year, he spoke at our summer camp. This year, we approached him about coaching here and convinced him to help us out. The kids love him. He has instant credibility."
McCurren added that Hargrove has also been active in building the community's junior program for students in the fifth through eighth grades.
Hargrove keeps a busy schedule. When not coaching, he works as an education aide and certified non-violent crisis prevention instructor for an alternative school in Mount Vernon. He also attends classes at Rend Lake College with an eye toward completing a degree in special education.
"Coaching here just made sense to me," Hargrove said. "I enjoy the simplicity of the game and building relationships with these kids. They see my passion for football and I hope that rubs off on them."