Greg Rhodes’ NFL playing experience and his stint on the Carolina Panthers’ strength staff in 2010 made him a cinch hire for Jackson County when it went looking for a new speed and agility and defensive backs coach.
“To get a guy of that caliber, to come here, is unheard of,” Jackson County head coach Billy Kirk said. “It’s already made big difference in our kids.”
Rhodes spent last fall with Carolina working in speed, agility and strength training. But following a head coaching change in Carolina and the NFL lockout, Rhodes decided it was time to get back into the more developmental stages of the game. He joined the Jackson County staff during spring football.
“I just missed Friday nights,” Rhodes said. “We had our spring game, a Friday night game here a couple weeks ago, and it just brought back a lot of memories. So I’m looking forward to Friday nights, looking forward to seeing a lot of parents in the stands.”
Rhodes’ expertise is in speed and agility and he specializes in a program called Speed Tracs which is now being implemented at Jackson County. The team began summer workouts Monday with 75 kids voluntarily “busting it,” according to Kirk.
“He’s going to be running our speed and agility program,” Kirk said of Rhodes. “And to do that for us, that’s one of the things that’s been lacking for the last two or three years.”
The 36-year-old Rhodes has certainly been around enough big time football to learn a thing or two about speed and agility.
He played running back at South Carolina from 1994-1997. Though used sparingly as a Gamecock, Rhodes earned a spot at the next level by serving on the practice squad for the 1998 “dirty bird” Atlanta Falcons, who played in Super Bowl XXXIII. He was never activated but went up against Atlanta’s best daily in practice.
“Every day,” Rhodes remarked. “I got beat to death.”
Rhodes spent three more years in the NFL as a practice player (one more with Atlanta and two with Philadelphia) and one year in the arena league before retiring. Rhodes then moved on to coaching, with stops at Coffee County High School, Bacon County High School, the Carolina Speed (an arena league team in Charlotte) and Johnson C. Smith University, where he trained athlete for five sports. Rhodes then landed a spot on the Carolina Panthers staff last year as an intern specializing in strength and conditioning.
“I was doing a pretty decent job, and the players were responding to me,” Rhodes said.
In fact, Rhodes, who also runs his own business, “Speed Kills,” still maintains ties to the NFL. He’s currently working with Carolina Panthers like Eric Norwood, Captain Munnerlyn Dan Connor on the weekend as the league’s lockout continues. But Rhodes’ chance for full-time NFL employment ended when Carolina coach John Fox and his staff were fired in 2010 after a 2-14 campaign. That sent Rhodes in search of high school and college coaching opportunities.
And Jackson County is now happy to have him. Rhodes’ experience with the highest levels of football demands a lot of respect on the practice field, Kirk said.
“Credibility is huge with kids, and you’ve got that,” Kirk said. “When he’s out there doing something – not that they don’t listen to us – but when he’s out there showing them something, it’s coming from the NFL. And kids watch the NFL, so it’s a big deal.”
Rhodes said dealing with high school kids can be much more enjoyable, noting that some of the players in the pros “just get lazy.” In turn, the high school guys seem excited to have someone with NFL experience working with them.
“They’re always asking questions, and they’re always willing to work a little harder,” he said. “And I like that. It makes me appreciate my job.”
Rhodes will be plenty busy in 2011. He also serve as a graduate assistant in strength and conditioning for the University of Georgia this summer in addition to his duties with Jackson County in hopes that he can land a spot on the Bulldogs’ staff as a graduate assistant this fall. But he’ll be with Jackson County this fall regardless as he continues instilling his speed and agility program. Rhodes, who said it’s his goal to get to the playoffs, promises this much:
“I’m guaranteed to get every last one of them faster,” he said. “Oh yeah, they’re going to get much faster.”