By David Fong
TROY — Ryan Jones always had a feeling his life would eventually end up with him on the sidelines, leading a football team.
Recently, that dream came true as Troy Christian named Jones its new football coach. He’ll replace Steve Nolan, who retired after three seasons leading the Eagles. Prior to that, Nolan had spent 28 years as the Troy football team’s head coach.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Jones said. “I’ve always wanted to be around football. It’s the best game there is. Aside from the winning and losing, the things you learn on the football field build character. Football creates young men of good character. The lessons you learn in football can be applied to things you will face in every day life.”
Jones has spent the past two seasons at Troy Christian, coaching the Eagles’ wide receivers and defensive backs — although his football pedigree goes back much further than that.
He played football at Wapakoneta High School — his father, Darrell, was the team’s head coach his final two seasons — before graduating in 2000. He then went on to study at Miami University. Following his graduating from Miami in 2005, he became a student assistant for the program under former head coach Terry Hoeppner.
“I came in with (Pro Bowl quarterback Ben) Roethlisberger, so it was a good time to be at Miami,” Jones said.
Following his time at Miami, he took a graduate assistant position at Cortland State University, where he earned his masters degree while working with the team’s wide receivers. In 2011, he became the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at Case Western Reserve Univeristy.
Following his stint at Case Western, Jones and his wife moved to the Dayton area, where he would spend a few years out of coaching before becoming an assistant coach at Dayton Christian High School in 2013. After moving to Troy in 2014, he would spend the last two seasons as an assistant under Nolan. His father has been Troy Christian’s defensive coordinator.
“I’m really excited,” Jones said. “I think the players are excited. I’ve been looking for an opportunity such as this for awhile now. I’m ready to go. I do think it helps that I’m familiar with the program and the kids in the program. Hopefully that positive rapport I have with the student athletes will help out. I’m also a science teacher at the school, so I think it will help me, being in the building every day.”
Jones knows one of the biggest challenges he’ll face as head coach is building up Troy Christian’s numbers. The program actually closed down in 2012 as it did not have enough players on the roster to field a competitive team. Nolan took over in 2013 and was able to build a Division VII playoff team in his second season — but was able to do so with a roster that never exceeded 25 players.
Jones is hoping he can build the high school program by reestablishing a Troy Christian Junior High team, something the Eagles have not had for several years.
“I think numbers are always going to be a priority in any football program — but especially at a smaller school like Troy Christian,” Jones said. “My first priority is going to be trying to reestablish our junior high program. It makes a difference when you have a junior high team. You get the guys exposed to football. By the time they get to high school, they are exposed to the fundamentals and the terminology.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong