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Looking back, ahead with Coach G

Players say Gammerdinger will bring discipline, structure to team

Newly+appointed+head+coach+and+athletic+director+Thomas+Gammerdinger+coaches+up+his+defensive+players+during+the+Calallen+game.+Photo+by+Dave+Winter.+
Newly appointed head coach and athletic director Thomas Gammerdinger coaches up his defensive players during the Calallen game. Photo by Dave Winter.

Newly appointed head coach and athletic director Thomas Gammerdinger coaches up his defensive players during the Calallen game. Photo by Dave Winter.

Newly appointed head coach and athletic director Thomas Gammerdinger coaches up his defensive players during the Calallen game. Photo by Dave Winter.

Julie Robertson

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Ten years ago, Thomas Gammerdinger was a rookie coach teaching special teams to seventh-graders. The Friday before spring break, he accepted the post as head football coach and athletic director at McCallum, taking the reins of a team that reeled off 14 straight victories en route to the 5A Division 2 state semifinals.

When Macjournalism caught up with him on Tuesday, Gammerdinger found it hard to put into words what the new position means to him.

“I’ve worked here at McCallum for eight years,” Gammerdinger said. “I’ve been a coach from 10 years. It means a lot that I get to be at McCallum because I love this school, and I love these kids and I get to share this awesome moment with kids that I care about and coaches that are good friends of mine.”

Of his middle-school coaching origins Gammerdinger joked that there really is not a lower position you can have in public school athletics and that even in those humble beginnings, the head coaching high school position has always been his ultimate goal.

“I’m not going to say it was a straight upward trajectory,” Gammerdinger said. “There were certainly setbacks but that’s what makes it better. It makes it good whenever somethings hard you got to work for it and you got to grind for it.”

Gammerdinger said he went to talk to Principal Mike Garrison the Monday after Coach Taylor left and told him he was interested in the job.

“He told me to apply for it, and I went down and interviewed about two weeks ago down at the Burger Center Office,” Gammerdinger said. “There was about a seven-person panel there including Mr. Garrison and they were thorough and asked me about 10 questions and called me the next day and said they were going to offer me.”

Garrison said that Gammerdinger was the best man for the job.

“He knows football, he loves McCallum, he loves his players,” Garrison said. “And with his leadership, the McCallum football program will continue to be successful.”

As defensive coordinator, Gammerdinger oversaw a vast improvement in the team’s defense during its historic 2017 regular season and playoff run. After giving up 130 points in its first five games of the season, the Knight defense held its next nine opponents (including four playoff teams) to 72 points. In the season’s signature win— a 20-7 victory over 2016 5A D2 state finalist Calallen—the defense had perhaps its finest hour.

Junior Deron Gage, who totaled more than 1,382 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 touchdowns in 2017, said his favorite memory so far with Gammerdinger came at that moment.

“After we beat Calallen, [Coach G] came into the locker room and took off his shirt and started screaming,” Gage said. “That was pretty fun and he got us hyped up. He hypes us up every game so I’m ready for him to take over as the head coach and lead us into playoffs.”

At the football banquet in January, Gammerdinger was quick to give his players the credit for the defense’s turnaround.

“You really can’t say enough about these kids,” Gammerdinger said. “It’s just a really special group of people. They did everything we ever asked them to do. We always talk about how on defense we want to play with effort, accountability and toughness, and these guys, they lived it. It’s rare to meet a group of young people who are as committed to something as these guys were.”

Senior linebacker Jackson Masters credited Gammerdinger and his other Mac coaches for helping him grow from a scrawny freshman special teams player into a senior defensive leader who will play Division 1 football at Texas State next year. He especially praised Coach G for running the offseason weight program that helped him get bigger and strong between his junior and senior years.

“I don’t think I could ever thank Coach G, Coach Osorio, and everyone else enough for what they did for me,” Masters said. “G, Osorio, and Stancik helped me develop into a good football player

and they are like father figures to me. I love them. I only got this type of opportunity because of what the coaches, my teammates, my parents and what McCallum did for me.”

Tackle Judah Copeland expressed the same gratitude when he talked about his opportunity to play college football at Harding University next season.

“[The coaches] gave me the most they can give to a freshman,” Copeland said. “Mac gave me the worth ethic it really takes to be successful doing anything really. Shout out to Coach G for that. That man is one of the hardest working men I have ever been around.”

Gammerdinger’s willingness to work hard is equaled by a humility that has endears him to his players. The returning players we contacted all expressed eagerness to work with Gammerdinger as their head coach. Like Gage, junior nose tackle Lloyd Barriere said he was eager to get to work under Gammerdinger’s leadership.

“The overall mood will change on the team,” Barriere said. “We will be even more prepared for the next season than we were this season.” ”

Junior Gabe Williams, another key defensive starter at free safety in the 2017 season, also said he was glad that Gammerdinger was going to be the head coach.

“I was really excited and happy for him,” Williams said. “I thought that he knew our group well and would be the best person for the job.”

Williams also said that Gammerdinger knows how to structure practices and scrimmages in order to prepare the team in the best way for their games.

“I think that he will be a lot more structured, and he will try to get the team to focus on perfecting the fundamentals and details of the game,” Williams said. “After losing such a strong and talented 2018 class the details will be a lot more important this year.”

In terms of winning games in 2018, Gammerdinger referenced John Wooden and his definition of success.

“The definition of success isn’t necessarily winning every game,” Gammerdinger said. “But if you do the best that you can do, then there is not much more you could have done. So we are going to define success for us as self actualization, we are going to be as good as we can be. That will be success.”
“In the last game of the year against College Station, even when the game seemed to be out of hand he was still faithful to us,” Williams said. “He never gave up on us, which I think is the reason why we all care about him so much.”

Interview by Steven Tibbetts.

Additional reporting by Delaney Carter, Amarissa Lozano and Steven Tibbetts.

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