Former Players Helping Mustangs to NAIA Championship as Coaches

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 11:19 PM CST
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DURHAM, NC (KTIV) - As they prepare for their national championship game against Grandview, One would notice Morningside’s roster is filled with experience. Players who have won a lot of games in a Mustang uniform.

You can say the same about the coaching staff. Four assistant coaches used to play for head coach Steve Ryan and the Mustangs.

In order to build a successful football program, you have to establish a winning culture. Morningside has done that under the leadership of head coach Steve Ryan. Some members of the coaching staff have been apart of that winning culture as a player and now as coaches, they get to help maintain the Mustangs winning ways.

“You see the coaches that you had as you played, the time that they spend putting in the hours just to prepare the guys to be out on the field and nothing has changed in terms of that,” said assistant coach Taylor James. “It’s a huge sense of pride being able to coach at the place that you played at.”

Three coaches on the staff have played in national title games with the Mustangs. Darius Hicks played on the 2012 national runner-up team. Having the experience of playing in a title game is helpful when preparing this years team for Saturday’s matchup with Grand View.

“We try to tell our guys just go out there and treat it like a regular ball game. Don’t add anymore pressure that you already have to do,” said Hicks. “You’ve made these plays, once again going back to preparation, a thousand times in practice. Now just go out there and play ball like you have been doing for the past 13 weeks.”

First year assistant coaches Deion Clayborne and Klayton Nordeen played on the 2018 and 2019 Mustang teams that won back to back NAIA national championships. After winning two titles as players, they have a chance to win another one as coaches.

“It would mean everything. I just want to do what I can to help these guys win a national championship,” said Clayborne. “We got two and that’s great but it’s always about the next one and making sure we’re doing everything we can to come out on top on Saturday.”

“Ultimately, it would be awesome if it would just happen regardless whether I was here or not,” said Nordeen. “Just for guys that I played with that are still on the team and what it means to those older guys and even the younger guys so they can kind of see how it all works. But, even if I wasn’t here I just want those guys to have success.”

Morningside will go for their third championship in four years on Saturday night against Grand View.

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