Concord High coach Glen Padgett knows there's more to life than football.
That's why the second-year Spiders coach decided to hire an academic coach to help his program excel academically this season.
Padgett said the idea for the position came from years of listening to his athletes talk about wanting to play in college, but feeling helpless watching as talented players were unable to fulfill their dreams because of grades.
"Society in a lot of ways conditions them to think, 'If I'm good enough, things will take care of themselves,'" said Padgett.
"This is a way for our program to reinforce the importance of academic success to our kids."
With college programs providing tutors and other academic support to their athletes, Padgett thought that same principle could also work at the high school level.
"I feel like this is a way we can help them succeed and put themselves in a position that if college is what they want, then not going because they don't qualify won't be a problem," he said.
Padgett said that with an academic coach the team will be able to hold players more accountable for their schoolwork, which could help the program out in the long-run by keeping players eligible.
Padgett hired Howard Boyd, a behavior management technician at Concord High, to fulfill the position.
Boyd, who will also serve as a running back coach for the Spiders, said he was excited about the opportunity to help the players both on and off the field.
"I want to be a positive influence on their lives," said the 30-year-old. "Only good can come out of this."
Boyd said his biggest responsibility in this new role will be to increase the number of Concord football players who go to college. He explained that many of the athletes who haven't made the grades in the past might have done better if someone had offered some help.
But he's realistic with what his job will accomplish, knowing that it won't land every one of the players scholarships or get them to college.
"At least it will plant a seed," said Boyd. "I want them to improve on their grades and start to see the big picture."
In order to do so, Boyd will continue the Spiders' practice of checking up on players' grades, making sure to get progress reports every few weeks.
"If any of them are struggling, I'll set up tutors for them and set up a plan for them," he said, explaining that tutors will include Concord High teachers.
Boyd will also depend on players coming to him and asking for help if they are struggling in a class.
Padgett said Boyd, who lives with his wife, Lateisha, and 5-year-old daughter, Corinne, in Concord, was the perfect person for the job because of his love for football and the flexibility he has to assist athletes both during and after school.
"He's very passionate about this," said Padgett.
Boyd had showed interest in Concord athletes, helping a few of them out last spring by setting up tutoring and remediation, which includes making up for any lost classroom time.
Boyd said he believes that's what attracted Padgett's attention and landed him the academic coach job.
The academic coach's duties will not lapse when football season ends in November or December, continuing instead for the rest of the school year.
Padgett said having year-long support for athletes was key.
"Players tend to do better in season," said Padgett, who added that athletics are one of the best dropout prevention programs around.
"With more distractions, they tend to lose focus in the spring, so this is a way to follow up and assist them however we can."
But Padgett knows that regardless of how much academic support his players receive from Boyd, it is up to them to truly be successful in the classroom.
Padgett explained the program came up with the funds to pay an academic coach by using funds donated by boosters.
"We're lucky because we have people willing to assist with this type of thing because they believe as passionately in it as we do," he said.
Padgett, who has also coached at North Mecklenburg and Northwest Cabarrus during his career, said he hopes adding the position will show parents he and his staff are committed to their children's education.
By holding his players responsible and providing them an academic resource, Padgett added, he can show them how to succeed in life - not just in football.
"It's not all about sports."