Northeast Lauderdale Maurice Gowdy

Northeast Lauderdale head football coach Maurice Gowdy discusses the importance of reading during the summer with his players during a break in Thursday's summer workouts at Northeast Lauderdale.

Maurice Gowdy was surrounded by his players during a break in Thursday morning’s summer football workouts at Northeast Lauderdale.

The Trojans’ head coach wasn’t lecturing his players about anything that had happened during practice up to that point. Instead, Gowdy took the time to encourage his players to read, beyond even the required summer reading for the students at the high school. He then expressed his desire for them to experience the world outside of Meridian and not limiting themselves to the experiences of their hometown.

“He gives us a life lesson every day,” junior all-purpose athlete JaMichael Jackson said. “I’ve never had a coach that gave me life lessons the way he does. He’ll do it during a football game if he has to.”

Northeast Lauderdale is in the midst of preparing for the 2021 season, and Gowdy said summer workouts have been more productive compared to a year ago, when COVID-19 safety precautions prevented them from doing things like competing in 7-on-7s against other teams. As much as he’s focusing on football, though, Gowdy said he always takes the time to discuss non-football topics with his players, as he feels one of his callings in life is to develop well-rounded student-athletes who will be successful long after their high school careers are over.

“Last year when I got hired I told the community that I’m here to be a champion on and off the field,” Gowdy said. “I spend more time with my kids than most coaches spend with their kids as parents. My responsibility is making sure to equip their minds and exposing them to things that will make them better students first, as well as better athletes.”

As a former college athlete, Gowdy said one of the things for which he’s most grateful is how athletics allowed him to see so many different parts of the country and meet so many people, and it’s something he hopes his players get to experience in one form or another.

“We want to expose the kids to as much as we can to make them more well-rounded people,” Gowdy said. “If a seed doesn’t have good soil, plenty of water and good sunlight, then it won’t grow.”

Jackson said he enjoys Gowdy’s life lessons and appreciates his head coach having an investment in him and his teammates beyond their performance on the field.

“I really like it because he’s not just about football,” Jackson said. “He’s one of those coaches who wants you to succeed in life and make you a better man.”

In particular, Jackson said Gowdy’s hope for his players to one day be good father figures rather than just dads is something that struck a chord with him.

“He said anyone can be a dad, but very few people can be a father,” Jackson explained. “A father takes care of his kids and never quits on his kids through the ups and downs. A lot of people nowadays don’t have real fathers. A lot of my friends don’t have fathers.”

Drawing inspiration from Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and College Football Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz, Gowdy said he considers coaching his ministry, an approach he’s come to appreciate more and more over his 20 years coaching football.

“I enjoy building relationships with them and seeing them go off to college and become good citizens, become men and women and seeing them come back, knowing they didn’t wind up in prison or a graveyard,” Gowdy said. “That’s what we have to do as coaches to make sure they’re successful.”

With fall right around the corner, Jackson said one of Gowdy’s life lessons will come in handy during tough games in the fall.

“Things have been going well this summer,” Jackson said. “It’s hard, but he tells us every day to never quit. The No. 1 thing we do is we don’t quit.”

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