Former NFL players Chris Myers, Sharrif Floyd and Deion Barnes are finding roles as local high school coaches
"They see me as their coach and a guy that’s going to teach them the game and teach them how to be young men,” Floyd said of his Ben Franklin players.
Chris Myers, Sharrif Floyd and Deion Barnes were star football players in high school and college, and went on to see time in the NFL.
These days, the three men have returned to their roots to coach local high school teams, and their efforts are already paying off.
“The techniques he brings to us from the NFL and college has helped us overall,” La Salle senior right guard Kenny O’Kane said of Myers. “We practice what he practiced, and he’s teaching us what was taught to him.”
Myers and Floyd pointed to their own high school coaches as inspirations for their desire to coach.
Myers, 38, is the offensive line coach and assistant strength coach at La Salle. He recalls his offensive line coach, Craig Karpiak, and his head coach, Jim Kroll, from his Florida high school.
“They kind of implemented the love of the game, the passion for the game, and most importantly the hard work,” Myers said.
Myers was a standout offensive lineman at Miami Palmetto High before appearing in two national championship games, winning one in 2001, at the University of Miami. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the sixth round of the 2005 draft and became a Pro Bowl center for the Houston Texans in 2011 and 2012.
Floyd, 28, is the defensive coordinator at Ben Franklin. He said his relationship with former George Washington High School coach Ron Cohen grew closer during his junior and senior years.
“When my mom and dad couldn’t be around to take me on trips to colleges, Coach Cohen had a truck full of kids and bused them down to whatever university it was," Floyd said. "Everybody was getting a chance to get seen.”
A Philadelphia native, Floyd was a standout defensive tackle at Washington before starring at the University of Florida. He was drafted with the 23rd overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2013.
Barnes, 26, is the defensive coordinator at Northeast. Also a Philadelphia native, he starred at Northeast and Penn State. He spent time on the practice squads of the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs in 2015 and 2016 and also played for the San Antonio Commanders in the Alliance of American Football.
Myers’ wife, Jenny, is from the Juniata section of Philadelphia, and after Myers retired in 2014, he and Jenny and their four children settled in the Philadelphia area in 2016.
Myers said he turned down offers to coach in college and the NFL after he retired and has found that La Salle is the perfect fit.
Family friend Brad Vespey, the father of La Salle senior running back Brad Vespe Jr., called Myers and asked him to stop by a practice in the spring of 2018.
Myers liked what he found at La Salle, and the Explorers’ offensive line has seen the benefits of having a former NFL player as their coach. The team was 4-1 before facing Father Judge on Saturday night.
“We were working on pass protection once, and he told us, when he was on the Texans, they were in a wild-card game against the Titans,” senior right tackle Mat Zoglio said, "and the d-line was shifting around a lot, and they weren’t sure what pass protection to call. So he just yelled out, ‘Block somebody!’ And they ended up scoring a 60-yard touchdown on that play.”
Barnes said he was watching a Northeast game in 2016 after he was released from the Chiefs’ practice squad. After the game, he texted Northeast coach Phil Gormley, who was Barnes’ defensive coordinator in 2011, and made it known he wanted to make a difference.
Barnes, who still hopes to play pro, thought he’d help out the team in the weight room and on the sidelines. It turned out to be more than that.
“I thought I was going to give some tips, basically,” he said. “I didn’t think that I was going to make an impact on kids’ lives. I didn’t see that, me becoming a mentor and me being a go-to guy to talk to on certain situations with certain guys.”
Floyd, who hasn’t played since 2016 because of injury, had no plans to coach until Ben Franklin coach Lorrell McCook, a former Cheyney coach, asked Floyd to be his defensive coordinator. The Electrons are 5-1, and Floyd’s defense has allowed just 6 points or fewer in four of their wins.
“It’s not really about me,” Floyd said. “I’m teaching technique, how to run a play, the proper way to beat a play, how to disrupt plays. If they’re doing their job and focusing on their keys, we should win the game. It’s more just teaching the guys technique and pretty much start with the basics.”
Northeast is off to a 6-1 start with Barnes’ defense pitching shutouts in three of the five victories.
“I went through the same process they went through,” Barnes said. “I could give you all the advice because I went through it. There’s nothing I haven’t seen because I was a highly-touted recruit.”
Floyd said his players are "slowly starting to understand who I am and what I’ve done.”
“I think they understand I’ve sat in their shoes before, too," he said. "Yeah, I may have accomplished a lot of things, but I have a lot to offer as well. I don’t think they see me as a star. They see me as their coach and a guy that’s going to teach them the game and teach them how to be young men.”