Patrick Hayes of the FLINT (MI) JOURNAL previews the prospects of the local Northwestern High School football team by focusing on the squad’s new head coach: Former NFL star and Northwestern alum Andre Rison.
Rison was hired last February, beating out 13 other applicants for the job, despite local media concern about his criminal background.
Laura Angus of the Journal reported on 2/11/10:
It appears that former Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Rison’s past legal woes won’t keep him from leading a Flint high school football team.
Rison made headlines in the past for mounting child support debts in Genesee County and Georgia.
The Flint native and Northwestern grad spent almost a month in a Georgia jail in 2004 after failing to pay $107,000 in child support there and declared bankruptcy in 2007.
Now the leading candidate to become the new football coach at Flint Northwestern High School, officials say he has paid off those support debts.
But then there’s court-ordered attorney fees to the mother of two of his children, Randall Kessler of Atlanta. Rison still owes Kessler $30,000.
Angus reported of that debt:
Kessler said he isn’t aggressively pursuing the remaining $30,000 in attorney fees he said Rison owes and doesn’t think he will file a lawsuit to get the money.
School board member David Davenport said Rison has attempted to rectify his problems and be a role model for young people.
“As long as he doesn’t have any felonies, I have no problem with him coming to be a role model for the students,” Davenport said.
School officials said they aren’t concerned about Rison’s past, and Flint schools spokesman Bob Campbell said he is the front-runner to fill the position as long as he is approved in a standard background check.
Now there’s a high standard for an employee charged with mentoring dozens of high school students.
As for the program itself, it appears Rison might be in the right place at the right time. Flint is coming off two winning seasons after a disastrous run of ineptitude dating back to ‘84 - when Rison was a basketball star at the same school.
And Rison, to his credit, is saying all the right things:
“It’s not just about football. It’s about getting in the mindset of education comes first. Football, we’ll deal with the X’s and O’s. But we’ve been working on character building, being on time and doing well in school more so than the X’s and O’s right now.
“Sports are a great window of opportunity for them to earn a scholarship to college. I drill them on how they can make a difference, not only with themselves, but with their community, and I think they’re buying into it.”
Having covered Rison when he played for the Chiefs in Kansas City, I can’t help but chuckle at those comments as they are so incredibly out of character for a guy who just 13 months ago called himself the greatest NFL wide receiver of all-time.
Regardless of Flint’s seemingly lax hiring standards and Rison’s well-documented, lengthy list of legal entanglements, I’m willing to give his post-career, down-and-out the benefit of the doubt.