For years, they have waited in the shadows. They've gotten a handful of the credit and a little of the blame. It used to be they offered their opinions when decisions had to be made. Starting today, they will make the decisions.
They are the nine new high school football coaches at Baltimore area schools. Today, the first day of summer practice for area teams, they officially become head coaches.
Seven of the nine are making their debuts as varsity head coaches -- Gene Blizzard (Bel Air), Ed Ashwell (Glenelg), Mike Working (McDonogh), Tom Hollin (North Harford), Bob Greene (Milford Mill), Tim Perry (Mount St. Joseph) and Jim Doyle (Severn).
Bob Helms (Loch Raven) and Jerry Gray (John Carroll) previously have been varsity coaches, but it's been more than a decade since either was a head coach.
For Working and Perry, it's like homecoming, as each returns to his alma mater.
Working has an extensive coaching background, but none of it in high school. He was a head coach for three years at Appalachian State, an assistant with the Detroit Lions and an assistant at Tulsa. He is a 1965 graduate of McDonogh, where he lettered for three years as a quarterback for his father, Dick.
"This is really fun for me, having an opportunity to coach my son [Michael] and be around my family," Mike Working said. "My mom and dad still live here, and my sister teaches at McDonogh."
Perry, a 1967 graduate of Mount St. Joseph, spent 21 years as an assistant and junior-varsity coach before coming back to Mount St. Joseph.
"I think for anyone who rises to the head varsity coaching position, it's a dream," said Perry, who was an assistant at Calvert Hall last season. "The first night I went down to the field, my heart was pumping. Coming back to my alma mater is something special. One thing that has made it special has been the tremendous reception from faculty and staff."
It is also a homecoming of sorts for John Carroll's Gray, who started the program in 1964 and coached until 1978.
John Carroll assistants were popular during the off-season. Milford Mill's Greene, Mount St. Joseph's Perry and North Harford's Hollin are former assistants or junior varsity coaches at the Harford County school.
Three of the new coaches were elevated from assistant coach to head coach, so there shouldn't be much of a transition problem at Loch Raven, Severn or Bel Air.
Loch Raven's Helms has been an assistant for for 20 years. He previously served as a head coach in Ohio during 1960-64. Severn's Jim Doyle and Bel Air's Blizzard each have served as assistants for the past six years at their respective schools.
"I've been waiting a long time for this job," Doyle said. "There have been a couple of opportunities over the years, but they weren't exactly right. I'm glad I waited."
All but one of the teams with new coaches are coming off VTC difficult seasons. Only Severn (8-2) and Milford Mill (4-6) won more than three
games. Milford Mill's losing season was its first non-winning season since 1982.
Still, most of the new head coaches agree that victories will not be the main goal in their first seasons.
"The first year, the most important thing is that we establish an attitude about work habits and about how the team approaches the game," said McDonogh's Working.
"The biggest thing we want to accomplish as a head coach anwe as a staff is to give the boys success," said Mount St. Joseph's Perry, who takes over a team that was 0-9 last season. "How we measure that success I'm not sure yet."
New high school football coaches
Bel Air Gene Blizzard
Glenelg Ed Ashwell
John Carroll Jerry Gray
Loch Raven Bob Helms
McDonogh Mike Working
Milford Mill Bob Greene
Mount St. Joseph Tim Perry
North Harford Tom Hollin
Severn Jim Doyle