It started with a drive home after school.
Ryan Jesop was going home when he noticed some of his students playing football in an empty lot in town. Having excelled at football at the high school, college, and semi-professional level, the sight struck a chord.
“Many of those kids were in my classes, and they just didn’t connect to much about what we were doing in class,” Ryan Jesop said. “That was a few years ago, and some of them didn’t graduate from high school and other barely did. It seemed like football was a way to reach kids like that and give them some structure in their lives and something to work towards.”
That drive came full circle on Monday night, when the Switzerland County School Board named Ryan Jesop as the first football coach in school history. He has been entrusted with the development of the entire program from the ground up – and he’s already gotten to work.
“We put up sign up sheets on Tuesday morning in the middle school, and we’ve already had 30-40 kids sign up,” Coach Jesop said. “We are focusing on students in the 6th-8th grades, and we will begin building our program that will eventually grow to the varsity level.”
Coach Jesop said that he will begin strength training with the team this spring, helping athletes develop the strength and conditioning that they will need to begin their football journeys.
He said that he hopes to have 6-8 games this fall with the team, but cautioned that Switzerland County is late getting into scheduling and many schools have already filled their junior high schedules, but he and athletic director Tony Spoores will be searching for games.
For the current eighth graders, who will be high school freshmen in the fall, Coach Jesop will continue to work with those kids in the development of what the school board initially called a “C” team – and there are hopes that the high school squad will also get some games in this fall.
“This is not only about developing a program, but it’s about engaging with kids who haven’t found a place yet,” Ryan Jesop said. “Many of the kids who have already signed up don’t participate in any other sports or activities. We’ve had a lot of girls sign up saying that they’d like to be managers for the team or help in some way. Staff members are volunteering to help, along with members of the community. A lot of people are stepping forward and that’s exciting.”
Ryan Jesop comes from a football background. A star at Evansville Reitz High School, he earned Preferred Walk-on status at Ball State University.
After an injury curtailed his collegiate career after two years, he played semi-professional football in North Carolina, and there he caught the eye of professional scouts from the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League – but he knew it was time to pursue his true passion.
“I loved playing football, but I always knew that education would be my career,” he said. “I love teaching and my students. When I got interested in helping promote starting a football program here, it wasn’t about getting to coach it, it was about and will always be about the kids. This is going to engage many students and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
He’s also looking for help.
“Now that I’ve been named the coach, I have the opportunity to go out and talk with groups and individuals about how they can help us get to where we want to be,” Coach Jesop said. “I encourage everyone to contact me with suggestions or if they want to help out in some way. We need donations of money and we need donations of time. We’re just getting started, and we’re excited about where this is heading.”