CLEVELAND — Should Cleveland Glenville lose to Highland in Friday’s Division II state semifinal don’t look for Tarblooders coach Ted Ginn Sr. to shed any tears. The veteran coach has already beaten something far bigger than anything the Hornets will throw at him.
The 58-year-old went for what he thought would be minor surgery for a hernia just before the 2012 season.
Doctors found pancreatic cancer and some of the darkest days he’s seen followed. While his son was busy helping the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl, he was battling just to survive.
To put just how devastating pancreatic cancer is in perspective, only five percent of those diagnosed survive. The cancer did its best to take him — he was on life support for a week — but he fought back.
“All I was thinking about was living, surviving and trying to get out of the hospital,” Ginn said. “I missed a short period of time there, being unconscious and in intensive care. All I knew is I was sick and I couldn’t do anything.
“My main thing was my family, my church, my kids and the people. I wasn’t ready to go anywhere. I had to fight because this is all I know.”
Ginn fought because he has saved so many from the streets of inner-city Cleveland, where it’s a struggle just to make it to the next day for some. When Glenville lost in the D-I state finals in 2009 in a devastating 16-15 defeat to Hilliard Davidson, he was more worried about finding a home for one of his players and coats for a few of his kids.
So when the cancer struck Ginn, it hit more than the legendary coach. It shook the entire community.
“He’s everything to this program,” star safety Erick Smith said. “Last year, we tried to play for him, but it wasn’t the same. To look over your shoulder and see him now, if we can win this, it’ll be everything and it’ll be for him, not for us. “
Words like that are what pushed Ginn through it all. He doesn’t remember much of last year’s battle. All he remembers is he knew he had to get back to coaching.
“I missed what I do,” Ginn said. “The kids, the coaching, the family, being a husband. That’s what got me through. I knew everybody needed me.
“It has always been more than football. I appreciate the opportunity to be alive. It meant everything. What you have to understand about kids is they gave up because they didn’t understand. All they knew is he said he loved us, but he’s not here.
“I’m not going to sit there and tell kids I was sick. I was emotional when they won their first game, but every day is emotion. If I allow society to get to me and worry about how they think, I wouldn’t be here today. I live for today.”
Back on the field and in the hearts of his players, he leads a team on a 12-game winning streak that wants to return to the finals for the second time in school history.
While he has said a win would be nice, just getting back to where he is has meant the world to him and to those around him.
“It’s great to have him back. Just his presence makes it great,” cornerback Marshon Lattimore said. “It was tough not to have him, but he didn’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves. We had to just go out there and play for him. We do it all for him.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.