Whether it was playing relentless defense and holding South Miami star Lucas Barnes to a mere 16 points in the 1996 Class 6A state championship basketball game or leading his football team to an undefeated regular season by rushing for 1,129 yards and a school-record 32 touchdowns, few athletes at Miami High have possessed the athletic talents Sedrick Irvin once did.
The Miami Herald’s 1996 Male Athlete of the Year – the last the Stings had – went on to become the fourth-leading rusher in Michigan State history, a fourth round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1999 before injuries curtailed his career and he ended up playing in both NFL Europe and the Arena League.
Now, 12 years after playing in his final game for the Columbus Destroyers, Irvin, 39, is back on the Miami High sidelines. Monday was his first day back on campus as head coach of the football team – the start he hopes of bringing athletic glory back to a program which hasn’t won a playoff game in 17 years.
“It feels great,” said Irvin, 39, who spent last season as a quality control coach at East Carolina University working with the team’s running backs. “Walking the halls, the old memories, it’s a school where I made a name for myself, won a state championship in basketball, had a great football season and ended up in the Hall of Fame. To say you can be the head coach here – to me it’s a blessing.”
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Irvin has been coaching football since he stopped playing it. He was an assistant at Gulliver Prep from 2006 to 2008 before he went to work for his old college coach Nick Saban at Alabama for two years and coached Heisman trophy winning running back Mark Ingram and several other Crimson Tide stars.
After a season at Memphis as running backs coach, Irvin returned home to coach Westminster Christian for five seasons, where he led the Warriors to within a victory of reaching the Class 3A state title game in 2013.
Then, he returned to the college ranks last season. Irvin says he might have stayed at East Carolina this fall if he hadn’t missed his two sons – Sedrick Jr., 12, and Amari Sedrick, 9 – so much. Irvin says it’s his dream to coach his sons in high school.
“I wanted to be like George Foreman, but Amari's mom wouldn’t let me do it,” Irvin said of naming each of his son’s Sedrick. “They’re athletes like me – they don’t have a choice. They were born into it. Amari plays at Kendall Boys & Girls Club. He’s a quarterback, defensive end, running back. He’s very athletic. He also plays basketball, baseball.
“Sed plays running back. He’s been playing middle school. You can go to any middle school and they know who he is. He had 26 touchdowns in six games last year. He runs track, plays basketball. He’s a kid that hasn’t gotten a B yet in school. As a matter of fact, he got accepted to go to Duke for a week for the gifted program. He gets his smarts fom Dad.”
But Sedrick Jr.. and Amari Sedrick won’t be playing for their dad for at least a couple more seasons – and the job Irvin has in front of him isn’t easy. The Stings haven’t been to the playoffs since 2010 and they’ve been a punching bag in the district for Columbus and Coral Gables for years.
Miami High hasn’t scored a touchdown against Columbus since Sept. 23, 2010 when Elvis Trujillo scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter of a 38-7 Explorers victory. Since that game, Columbus has outscored Miami High 237 to 5 in six straight blowout victories.
Coral Gables, meanwhile, has won four in a row against Miami High by a combined score of 130 to 12. The last time Miami High beat its bitter rival, Virgilio Velasquez drilled a 25-yard field goal in overtime to pull off a 13-10 Stings win on Oct. 29, 2012.
But the days of being outclassed, Irvin said, will soon be over.
“My vision is to have a program in high school like Nick Saban is doing at Alabama or a George Smith at St. Thomas Aquinas,” Irvin said. “That's what I want. If I can have that over having a job in college, I’ll take that. This is what I love to do. It ain’t even about my kids. Of course I love my kids more than anything. That's what was killing me last year, being away from them.
“But this is what I want to do – coach high school football. I want to get kids to college. When you get to college you’ve got these guys that are about to become grown men and go to the pros. Sometimes that takes the love and passion out of the game because you think of it as a business and a job. I think right here in high school you get that childhood urge, what this game meant to me since I was little.”
Irvin has brought over two of his key assistants that were with him at Westminster Christian a couple seasons ago, kept three assistants from the previous staff and players like 6-5, 330-pound sophomore offensive lineman Dontae Lucas have started to trickle in.
Lucas, rated a four-star recruit by 247Sports in the Class of 2019, was a starter last season at nearby five-time state champion Booker T. Washington. He has offers from Florida, Auburn, East Carolina, Kentucky, FAU and Miami.
“I was supposed to be here and I came back because I love Coach Sed,” Jones said. “He’s one of the best coaches out there. He’s hard on me. He believes in me a lot and he trusts what you think. He knows where to go. He’s been there before.”
Irvin said his goal this spring is to change the mentality around Miami High – to elevate it to a different level.
“I believe as a man, thinking gets it done,” Irvin said. “So, let’s think like champions. Let’s think like First Team All-Dade, First Team All-State. I told them ‘Some of you guys don’t even know there’s a USA Today All-American team. Let’s think about that. Let’s think about being that guy that when you announce your college choice, ESPN wants you to do that on their channel. Why not?’
“That’s the first thing I have to do – change their mindset. Because they’re not going to be 3-7. The way we work, we’re not going to work to be 3-7. You can get that out of your mind.”