By Rubin E. Grant
On the eve of Auburn’s season-opening college football game against Kentucky, Tigers broadcaster Stan White was on the sidelines for John Carroll Catholic’s high school contest at Moody.
White has been at all the Cavaliers’ games this season, acting as a volunteer assistant coach under first-year John Carroll head coach Will Mara, a former Cavs’ player and assistant himself.
“Coach Will came and asked me if I’d come and help,” White said. “I told him if he needed me to help out, I’d be glad to help.
“I’m kind of an offensive analyst, sort of a new set of eyes. I’m having a lot of fun.”
Mara is glad to have White around.
“He told me he would be as involved as much as I wanted him or as little as I wanted,” Mara said. “He’s come in and he’s really loving it. He’s doing a great job. We’re blessed to have him.”
White already was coaching in John Carroll’s feeder system. He’s the offensive coordinator and play caller for the John Carroll Middle School team.
“I’m enjoying that,” White said. “My kids go to Prince of Peace in Hoover. My oldest son, Braden, is a seventh grader and he’s playing football. My younger son, Harrison, is in the fifth grade and I have a daughter, Lucy, who’s 8. I coach her in softball.”
It Takes a Full Staff
White, a former Berry/Hoover, Auburn and New York Giants quarterback, said the focus shouldn’t be on him, but on Mara and his coaching staff.
“Coach Will is a good guy,” White said. “He’s really trying to change the culture at John Carroll. It’s not going to happen overnight, but he’s making progress and putting the pieces in place to succeed.
“He’s put together an incredible staff with guys who have played at all levels, high school, college and the pros. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great coach, but you know football and you can pass that along.”
Among John Carroll’s other assistants are Kevin Drake (Gardendale High, UAB, Arizona Cardinals), Terrance Slaughter (Minor, University of South Alabama), Mike Plaia (John Carroll, Army) and Vince Elliott (Pinson Valley, UAB).
Drake coaches receivers, Slaughter coaches defensive backs, and Elliott and Plaia coach linebackers.
“Overall, we’ve got nine former college players serving as assistants at the high school and middle school,” Mara said. “It’s been a blessing having these guys. They work well together and it’s awesome for me to be a part of it.”
The rest of the high school staff includes defensive coordinator Chris Allarde, offensive line coach Rob Crawford, receivers coach Logan McAlpine and defensive line coach Scott Spencer.
Mara said strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Williams also has had a dramatic effect.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a strength and conditioning coach,” Mara said. “He’s been a game changer for us, getting our guys in better condition. People at the school have seen the great job he’s done and want him to work with other sports.”
Mara and his impressive coaching staff have helped the Cavaliers get off to a 3-2 start, the earliest they have won three games in a season since 2010. They already have surpassed their 2019 win total, when they finished 2-8.
John Carroll has victories over Fultondale (28-10), Cordova (13-12) and Moody (21-0); and narrow losses to Carver-Birmingham (27-22) and Fairfield (13-7). The Cavs haven’t had a winning season since 2010, when they went 6-4, winning only 14 games from 2011 to 2019.
“The kids are really buying in and they’re 100% committed to what we’re doing,” Mara said. “We’re four or five plays away from being 5-0. We’ve gotten wins, but we hadn’t played our best football yet.”
The Cavs are 1-2 in Class 5A, Region 5 and will play host to Parker (2-2, 2-0) Friday in a region game.
“What I’m seeing is competitiveness in every game,” White said. “The team has a lot of fight to it.
“In the short time he’s been here, coach Will has created excitement and a culture change. I’m honored that he asked me to be a part of it.”