Back to high school
After tough break, ex-FSU QB Maguire finds footing coaching preps
TALLAHASSEE – Brian Carlson, high school football coach of Florida State tight end Ryan Izzo, was in dire need of a quarterback coach before this season.
Despite having Super Bowl-winning quarterback and NFL commentator Phil Simms occasionally stop by Sparta Pope John XXIII Regional High in New Jersey to coach up his players, Carlson needed someone to fill the position full time and found his new hire in divine fashion.
In mid-July, Carlson spotted Kevin Maguire, father of former FSU quarterback Sean Maguire, sitting “across the way” during Mass at Saint Kateri Church and instantly thought “What’s Sean Maguire doing?”
Sean Maguire, who participated in rookie minicamp with the Tennessee Titans in May, moved back home and began adjusting to life after playing football. He quickly assumed the open coaching position and has even installed a few Florida State plays in the Lions’ offense.
“I’m praying to the Lord that I need a quarterback coach and oh my God, there’s Mr. Maguire,” Carlson recalled this week. “My prayers were answered right there. It was perfect.”
Maguire, who became FSU’s starter in the final six games of the 2015 season, has not fully recovered from fracturing his left ankle in the Peach Bowl at season’s end.
Maguire used the words “terrible” and “shattered” to describe his injured foot. He can’t even play a pickup game of basketball just for fun because of the pain.
A CT scan earlier this week revealed he will need another surgery, possibly at the end of this high school football season, to fix the ankle.
“It’s still killing me,” Maguire said Friday. “I’m done.”
Maguire has had several months to cope with his situation. Instead of attempting a comeback in and out of NFL camps or in Canada, he opted to get a head start on a coaching career inspired by FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher and quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders.
“Making this decision not too long ago, people don’t know that’s my goal,” Maguire said. “I just want people to know I’m not coaching because, ‘Oh, it’s like a fallback.’
“I want to coach because I want to be like the next Coach Fisher or Coach Sanders.”
Everything may have worked out divinely for Maguire, too. He landed in an ideal situation to get his feet wet in the profession.
Pope John is in Maguire’s hometown, and the Lions are a top-10 team in the state of New Jersey that will play four top-5 teams this season, giving him an opportunity to get his competitive juices flowing again.
Maguire did not wait long to install FSU play calls he learned sitting behind quarterbacks like Jameis Winston, E.J. Manuel, Clint Trickett, Everett Golson and Deondre Francois from 2012-2016 under the tutelage of Fisher and Sanders, who will both turn 52 years old in less than a month.
“Obviously not all of it, and not as complicated, but some concepts and ideas,” Maguire said.
One play in particular Maguire’s new players love calls for the quarterback to roll out left after a fake handoff to the running back, with the running back running a wheel route up the right side and a tight end running in the flat on the same side of the field.
The Seminoles have used the play at least twice before.
Maguire hit Izzo for a 29-yard gain during a 27-2 win over Florida in 2015, while Seminoles fans might distinctly remember Francois connecting with a wideopen Dalvin Cook, who dropped a surefire touchdown at the 3-yard line against Ole Miss in the 2016 season opener in Orlando.
The Lions have not yet run the “gadget play, as Coach Fisher would call it.”
And Maguire knew better than to share FSU’s name for the play.
But it has a distinct name in Maguire’s playbook: “Nole.”
“I see Coach Sanders, and I see Coach Fisher, and I’m like, ‘When I’m that age, I’d be able to do exactly what they do,’” Maguire said. “You surround yourself with people like that for five years, and you soak up how they go about life and how they go about coaching. I could see myself doing that when I’m their age.”
Maguire, 23, hopes to become a college football graduate assistant coach, as early as next season, with the goal of someday becoming a position coach or head coach. THE MAGUIRE FILE
“I’m not putting a ceiling on it,” Maguire said. “But I’m going into it with an open mind, and just trying to learn as much as I can.”
Fisher — who once complimented Maguire as the “salt of the earth” — smiled wide upon hearing about Maguire implementing FSU plays in his coaching scheme.
Fisher said Maguire’s knowledge of the game, his passion and energy, and how he can relate and communicate are all assets Maguire can depend on in his new career move. He also said Carlson would have a hard time finding a better role model for the Pope John players.
“You’re talking about a guy that’s been through the whole gamut, knows what goes on, knows what’s happening, and still loves the game,” Fisher said after Thursday’s practice.
“I think that’s why Sean is so special. I’m happy for him because you’re talking about a great guy. He’s a great young man.”
Pope John’s offense got off to a great start with a 32-7 win over Maryland’s Bishop McNamara on Sept. 2.
As Maguire navigates his way through his first season as a coach, his turbulent experience as a player could serve as a guiding light.
“Everything I learned along the road that this game has taught me, I think I’ll make a great coach in the future,” Maguire said. “It’s something that I want to do, and it’s something that I love doing now.”
High point: Sean Maguire waves to the crowd after leading the Seminoles to a win against Clemson in 2014 in Tallahassee.
Sean Maguire, center, is helped off the field after fracturing his ankle during the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Dec. 31, 2015. Maguire recently said he’s going to need another surgery to relieve the ongoing pain in his foot.