Matt Birk played in the NFL for 14 seasons and made the Pro Bowl six times. Birk was the preeminent center in professional football. He won a Super Bowl as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. He's Harvard-educated.
But his role now as the NFL's Director of Football Development might be his grandest challenge and, perhaps, his true calling.
"A high school football coach right now is the most important job in the country," Birk said to 20 local coaches Friday at the Cleveland Browns' facility. "Tomorrow's leaders are playing high school football. Nothing else has this much potential."
To Birk and his colleague Jerry Horowitz, there's a way to start combating the swirling negativity that has surrounded football in recent years. High school football is the very core of the football world, and there's one common denominator to it all: Everyone who ends up playing in college and the NFL starts off at the high school level.
So the pair is working on changing the conversation at the local level. Birk and his team have launched TheGreaterGame.org to better organize and inform high school football coaches all over the country. The plan is to galvanize communities.
Not only will the website try to come up with solutions to problems coaches are facing – dealing with social media with players, shaping boys into men by preaching accountability on and off the field – it'll serve as a content distribution hub where high schools can promote the positive messages and unique traditions that are vastly under-reported in today's media landscape.
"I believe in football," Birk said, "and I believe in its ability to change our world."
After lunch, coaches were treated to an X's and O's seminar from Browns assistant offensive line coach George DeLeone.
An offensive coordinator during Syracuse's hey-day in 1990s with Donovan McNabb and Marvin Harrison, DeLeone charted how the high school coaches should prioritize planning their playbook in the offseason. Make practices more organized, study your opponents, have a purpose for your offense.
Then DeLeone showed film cut-ups of how the Browns practice. Cleveland employs many simple drills, which preach finishing the play, high school coaches can take back to their own schools.
The Cleveland Browns continue to take youth football as seriously as any team in the league. Visit our webpage to get your program more involved.