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New coach attempting to bring new attitude to Cedar Rapids Jefferson football
Former Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker, NFL player Ed Miles attempts to rebuild the J-Hawks program
CEDAR RAPIDS — A player approached first-year head coach Ed Miles following Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s first football practice of the season Monday night and told him he couldn’t make it to an early morning weight-lifting session because his mother had to work and he had no way to get to school.
Miles told him all right, but he had to find a way to get extra lifting in at a later date to make up for it.
Another player then approached Miles and informed him about a groin injury. The young man had been advised by the school’s trainer to ice it that night, then come in before practice the following day for additional treatment.
Miles nodded at him.
“Responsibility. All right?” he told the player. “Responsibility.”
Rebuilding this program begins with rebuilding the culture. Rebuilding the culture involves demanding individual responsibility and accountability.
“I can say you only need three things to play for me: mental toughness, physical toughness and maximum effort. None of those things have anything to do with talent,” Miles said. “I was watching film of last year and stuff, and I saw a lot of lacking in those standards. So my thing is simple. I have expectations for everybody, and it’s my job to coach them, coach each player to exceed those expectations. Not to meet those expectations but exceed them.”
A former University of Iowa linebacker and NFL player, Miles isn’t blind to the situation he has walked into. Make that run into, considering the amount of sprinting players did to conclude their first official practice.
Jefferson is on a 17-game losing streak. It went 0-9 last season, its closest loss by 42 points.
The J-Hawks had to forfeit a game against crosstown rival Cedar Rapids Kennedy because COVID-19 and injuries combined to leave too few available players. Jefferson had just 21 guys dressed for the first game of the 2021 season.
Things unraveled last summer when multiple players decided to transfer to other schools. Other players saw that and decided simply not to go out.
What a mess that Miles, 37, a former Linn-Mar assistant, is trying to clean up. He works in the Jeff building as a college career transition coordinator affiliated with Kirkwood Community College.
“We’ve got to change the perception of Jefferson football,” he said. “If you see somebody ask ‘You guys play for Jefferson?,’ automatically it’s followed by ‘Oh, you guys suck. Jefferson sucks. They’re trash. I’m not playing for them.’
“A lot of times if you take a step back, some of our better athletes are not coming out. But those guys also have bad tendencies, so to speak. My thing is if you’re not going to be here and give maximum effort and be tough mentally and physically, then this is not the spot for you, whether you’ve got a lot of talent or not.”
About 65 kids in ninth through 12th grade attended the first practice. Miles said he hopes the number of players reaches the 70s by the time the first game rolls around Aug. 26 against Cedar Rapids Washington.
Freshmen and sophomores will be counted on to contribute to the varsity this season.
“There’s just a different feeling all around,” said junior lineman Cade Chism. “A lot more excitement going into this season. A little bit more of, you know, everyone wants to be here. Everyone is buying into what we’re doing. It’s a way-better, hard-working culture. It’s go time.”
“Last year felt hopeless almost,” said junior lineman Colin Woods. “This year it feels like we have a chance to win a game, maybe more.”
All Jefferson players interviewed Monday said they felt confident their team would break the school’s losing streak this season. They said they enjoy the toughness Miles is trying to instill in them.
“I see a lot of potential in all of these players,” Miles said. “I think they’ll be able to turn some heads in the first year. Absolutely.”
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