Assistant football coach works on nursing degree

A part of Jay Kablan always has pulled him toward human service. Coming out of college eight years ago, he was leaning toward becoming a high school teacher and football coach.

Sidetracked by dollar signs and the lure of a booming mortgage industry, Kablan chose a different career path for a few years. An eventual casualty of the tanking economy, however, Kablan has recently made a return to human service and coaching football.

In December, shortly after completing his second year as a Concord High School assistant coach, Kablan, 31, will graduate from Cabarrus College of Health Sciences as a registered nurse.

He's considering the pursuit of another degree, to become either a nurse practitioner or medical doctor, hoping his schedule will continue to allow him to be part of the Spiders' football staff.

A 1999 Concord High graduate, Kablan was a lineman and captain for perennially successful Spiders teams in the late '90s. A standout in the classroom as well, Kablan was a member of the National Honor Society and enrolled at UNC Charlotte after high school graduation.

For four years, Kablan worked on a degree in history and political science, planning to enter the teaching field through a lateral-entry program. After he graduated, a former roommate in the mortgage business showed Kablan his first paycheck. Kablan could hear the "cha-ching" in his mind and suddenly had new career aspirations.

He worked his way up to branch manager of a Charlotte firm, "living a comfortable life," Kablan said. After four years, things got dicey and unpredictable as both the mortgage industry and the economy turned south.

One day, unexpectedly, a supervisor visited the branch and shut it down. Kablan was unemployed for 10 months in 2008. For a little more than a year, he took a job with a consumer debt consolidation company. It paid the bills, but Kablan wasn't comfortable in his own skin.

"I reached a turning point in my life," he said. "You find out it's not all about the money. You still have to look at yourself in the mirror.

"... Nursing always made sense. You help more people in one day than most people do in a year."

He had some money in the bank and enrolled at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in January 2010. A few of his credits rolled over from UNCC, but for the most part, Kablan was starting anew.

While taking a full load of classes, Kablan approached Concord High football coach Glen Padgett about becoming an assistant coach. Padgett assigned him to the offensive line, where he played as a Spider more than a decade years ago.

"It's been awesome," said Kablan. "Being down on the field, you get the goose bumps again and hear the crowd cheer. When you tell these kids what it's like to play here and do the things Concord is known for, I'm speaking from the heart."

Concord's teams played deep into the state playoffs when Kablan was a member of the team, including a semifinals trip during his senior season. This year's Spiders are looking to do the same, if not more. On Friday, they were scheduled to host a second-round state playoff game against Rockingham County.

Kablan can also speak from the heart about being a leader in the classroom. He is serving his second term as the Cabarrus College's student body president. During his tenure, he has led his classmates through a Habitat for Humanity service project and coordinated a charity softball tournament.

Already working part time as a certified nursing assistant at Carolinas Medical Center-Lincolnton, Kablan hopes to put his nursing degree to work after his December graduation.