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Harding High’s Sam Greiner is the 2016 Charlotte Observer high school football coach of the year

Harding High football coach Sam Greiner, the Observer’s coach of the year (white shirt, third from left) partnered with a former Carolina Panther to provide Christmas gifts for some of the players on his team
Harding High football coach Sam Greiner, the Observer’s coach of the year (white shirt, third from left) partnered with a former Carolina Panther to provide Christmas gifts for some of the players on his team

Harding High’s Sam Greiner, the 2016 coach of the year, is always preaching to his team about what he calls “moving mountains.”

He said to make small change, you have to make big impact. This season, Harding finished 5-7, the most wins the school has had since 2007. Harding made the playoffs for first time in six years. The Rams won three of their last four regular-season games, a rare run of success for a school that has had two winning seasons in 26 years. Along the way, Greiner earned national headlines for his off-the-field efforts with quarterback Braheam Murphy. Murphy was functionally homeless when Greiner moved him into his house last spring.

After an Observer story appeared on the coach and his quarterback last October, readers donated more than $2,200 to help with Murphy’s care, and Murphy has struck up a friendship with a local businessman who has taken him to a few Davidson games.

Former Carolina Panther Roman Harper’s foundation, Hope 41, has donated cleats to the school (as has former Rams star Walt Aikens, now a Miami Dolphins defensive back). But this year, officials from Hope 41 asked Greiner if any of his players were not going to have anything for Christmas.

Pretty quickly, Greiner found himself spending $1,000 on shoes and clothes for seven of his players, money that Hope 41 will reimburse. He gave the players their gifts Wednesday, including matching shoes for a junior varsity quarterback who has a 1-year-old baby boy.

“I was walking around Carolina Place mall and it looked like I needed a sled,” Greiner said. “When I gave it to them Wednesday, they were excited. And it makes me feel spectacular that people want to do stuff for other people. In my opinion, Christmas is the season to give, not receive. That’s what I get the most joy from, seeing other people excited. I was excited watching those kids with their gifts and I was excited watching our teams this year. We set the stage. Now we’re hungry for more.”

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