Far­rier coaches his play­ers on and off the field

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Mike Klinga­man

He’s the in­terim coach of a win­less foot­ball team that lost its most re­cent game 62-0. But know this about Fred T. Far­rier: Records aside, the Mor­gan State coach is in­tent on turn­ing out men. Team meet­ings are as likely to touch on char­ac­ter and trust as on com­ple­tions and touch­downs.

“Ev­ery game, I be­lieve we’ve got a chance to win,” said Far­rier, 44, whose team will host Howard tonight at 7. “At the end of the day, though, foot­ball is just a tool to teach life’s lessons, long term. We’re pre­par­ing th­ese play­ers to be good hus­bands and great dads. Be­cause wheny­ougrad­u­ate, you’ve got to pay that car note and day care bills, and those folks want their money on time — and no­body’s go­ing to pat you on the back ev­ery time you pay the mort­gage. And if you don’t pay it, they’re com­ing to take the keys.”

To that end, the door to Far­rier’s clut­tered of­fice is al­ways open to play­ers strug­gling to cope with mat­ters on and off the field. The Bears wasted no time seek­ing him out.

“Coach is easy to re­late to,” de­fen­sive line­man Ay­o­deji Ag­be­lese said of Far­rier, who joined the Mor­gan State staff in 2014. “I came to him with lead­er­ship is­sues in my life. He helped me to ma­ture, to grow, and

now I’m a team cap­tain.” Josh Miles’ prob­lem was aca­demic. “I was hav­ing trou­ble with cal­cu­lus, but [Far­rier] found me a tu­tor on cam­pus,” said Miles, an of­fen­sive tackle from West­ern Tech. “I got a B in the class — and that might have been a miracle.”

Rou­tinely, Thomas Martin — one of Mor­gan State’s top wide re­ceivers — sticks his head in the coach’s door­way to dis­cuss par­ent­ing. Martin’s 3-year-old son lives in Florida, and he misses him. Far­rier un­der­stands: His own wife and chil­dren re­side in the fam­ily’s Ken­tucky home.

“Coach gives me ways to cope with it,” Martin said of long-dis­tance fa­ther­hood. “That makes it eas­ier to fo­cus on the field. He says, ‘ When you’re go­ing through some­thing, use foot­ball as your ther­apy, your re­lease.’ It helps.”

To date, how­ever, Far­rier’s hu­man touch has brought no vic­to­ries. Mor­gan State is 0-2 en­ter­ing the Mid-East­ern Ath­letic Con­fer­ence opener against the Bi­son (0-3).

“Things will come to­gether; we can def­i­nitely bounce back,” Martin said. “The 1993 [Dal­las] Cow­boys started 0-2 and won the Su­per Bowl, so any­thing can hap­pen.”

Far­rier’s desk is pep­pered with hand­carved wooden buzz­words straight from Hall­mark cards. Trust. Faith. Love.

“You’d be sur­prised at the num­ber of young men who’ve never had some­one tell them, ‘I love you,’ ” he said. “I say that and they look at me like they’ve never heard it.”

The Bears’ slo­gan this year is BE­LIEVE. The word is em­bla­zoned both in the fab­ric of the play­ers’ T-shirts and their minds. Far­rier has made it an acro­nym to re­mem­ber: By Elim­i­nat­ing Lim­i­ta­tions, It’s Eas­ier Val­i­dat­ing Ex­pec­ta­tions.

“A big part of what we do is to get inside th­ese play­ers’ minds, to deal with their hang-ups,” he said. “I tell them a story about a huge hur­dle in my life and how it helped me get where I am today.”

In 1995, while rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle near his home in Cleve­land, Far­rier was struck by a drunken driver.

“I broke both legs in 17 places, tore both ro­ta­tor cuffs and needed more than 15 surg­eries,” he said. “Friends and fam­ily brought medicine to my­house, but one day it ran out with no one around. The pain was se­vere; my right leg had been crushed and I lay in bed, cry­ing. Fi­nally I thought, I’ve got to help my­self. So I slid into the wheel­chair, grabbed my keys and scooted out the back door.”

Some­how, Far­rier ma­neu­vered down five steps, crawled into his car and drove to the drug­store, us­ing his left foot on both the ac­cel­er­a­tor and brake.

“From that day on, I had the mind­set that ‘the only per­son who’s go­ing to limit you Fred Far­rier, right, chats with of­fen­sive line­man Ehi­jele Ubuane. In Fe­bru­ary, Far­rier was named in­terim coach at Mor­gan State af­ter Lee Hull left to be wide re­ceivers coach for the Colts. from do­ing any­thing is your­self,’ ” he said.

That’s the mantra he drills into his team, though not one he em­braced as a player. An Ohioan, he at­tended Holy Cross, where, as a wide re­ceiver, he was “an av­er­age player and a clas­sic un­der­achiever. I didn’t re­al­ize how good I could have been.”

An eco­nom­ics ma­jor, he joined Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers in Cleve­land as an ac- coun­tant.

“I was happy wear­ing suits, driv­ing down­town and work­ing in a sky­scraper. I thought I was go­ing to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 com­pany,” Far­rier said. Then, in 1997, a friend sug­gested he ap­ply for a grad­u­ate as­sist­ant­ship at Michi­gan State un­der then-head coach Nick Sa­ban. Far­rier at­tended a game and stashed his suits.

Tonight’s game

HOWARD (0-3) @ MOR­GAN STATE (0-2) Time: Site: Video: Ra­dio: Se­ries: What’s at stake: “I missed the roar of the crowd,” he said. As­sis­tantships at Sag­i­naw Val­ley State (Mich.), Ten­nessee Tech and Shaw (N.C.) fol­lowed be­fore Far­rier be­came head coach at Ken­tucky State in 2005. Af­ter four years and a 19-25 record, he was fired.

Af­ter sev­eral sea­sons as a foot­ball com­men­ta­tor and then as­sis­tant coach at Rens­se­laer Polytech­nic, Far­rier joined Mor­gan as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in 2014. In Fe­bru­ary, he re­placed Lee Hull, now wide re­ceivers coach for the In­di­anapo­lis Colts. But his post is one Far­rier calls “the best job in the world.”

“On one hand, as head coach of a Divi­sion I in­sti­tu­tion, I’m the CEO of a $10 mil­lion com­pany,” he said. Play­ers swear by Far­rier’s style. “He cares about us as peo­ple,” Ag­be­lese said. “He’s made us closer as a team. I see it all com­ing to­gether, maybe [tonight] against Howard.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

“Foot­ball is just a tool to teach life’s lessons,” Bears in­terim coach Fred Far­rier says.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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