Sports

Keel gets his head coaching chance at CK

"For Mark Keel, this isn't a ready-or-not situation.Keel knew he wanted to be a high school football coach long before the position opened up at Central Kitsap High School.I've wanted to do this for a long time, said Keel, 38, who was named this week to succeed Scott Speck at the Cougars' helm. I've felt like it's time for me to be a head coach. I feel like I'm ready. Now we'll see.Keel, a former pro tight end in both the NFL and now-defunct U.S. Football League (USFL), was an assistant to Speck for four years. He was an applicant for the vacant head coaching job at Olympic High School when he heard that Speck's 13-year tenure at CK was coming to an end.I just shifted my resume over, laughed Keel.Keel graduated from Clover Park High School in Tacoma in 1979, then played two years at Olympic College before transferring to the University of Arizona. He was a ninth-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1983, and saw action with New England, Kansas City and Green Bay in the NFL and the Arizona franchise in the USFL. He and his wife, Brytt, have a 13-month-old daughter, Symone.He said he was involved working with youth during his playing days, steering him towards a career in coaching.I think the last three years before I was done playing, I was thinking I'd like to be a high school coach, he said. I always had worked with students in group homes, and I knew I wanted to keep working with kids.Even though there are nearly four months before turnouts begin, Keel - who coordinates the Central Kitsap School District's school-to-career program - started feeling the responsibilities of his new job from the moment CK co-principal John Cervinsky told him that he had the job on Tuesday morning.The first thing I found out was that I had a budget proposal due on Friday, he laughed.He said he was thankful for the support he's gotten from Speck, for whom he served as an offensive and defensive line coach for the last four years, and for the presence of two veteran assistants - Bob Detweiler and Derrow Sheets - who will remain on the Cougar staff.I've learned a ton of stuff from Scott. He's been a good teacher and friend, Keel said of Speck. In fact, I was just talking with him in his classroom (Wednesday) morning, and when I left, I said, 'I'll be back.' He said the door would be open.He's been more than willing to help, Keel said of his former boss.Cervinsky said Wednesday that time was of the essence in filling the head coaching position. The three applicants all were interviewed Monday, and Keel was told the job was his the next morning. Cervinsky phoned the Reporter Wednesday morning to make the announcement.We didn't want to wait, Cervinsky said of the process. It's best for the kids in the building to know who the coach is going to be, and we wanted to be able to tell them as soon as possible. We know Mark will do a fine job.Besides Detweiler and Sheets, Keel said there would be four or five other assistants on his staff.The best thing will be to have a (coach) for every position. I don't want to be tied down to one position.He said he'd like to fill the remaining staff openings by the end of May, and joked that he shouldn't have any trouble meeting that objective.I was announced Tuesday morning, he said, and Tuesday night I got about 14 phone calls.An offensive player throughout his own career, he said, I've had to learn about defense, but offense is my passion. I came up with guys like Lindy Infante and Larry Smith (both noted NFL offensive gurus), and I've been fortunate always to have good offensive coaches."

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