Fred Gilmore has helped take Booker High School in Sarasota to the state semifinals
In the NFL community, Cincinnati Head Coach Marvin Lewis has emerged as a hot Coach-of-the-Year candidate for taking a Bengals team that was 2-14 in 2002 and turning them into a legitimate playoff contender in 2003.
Similarly, in the ranks of Florida high school football, Booker High School Head Coach Fred Gilmore and his staff have been the talk of the state.
Gilmore has orchestrated a most improbable of reversals at Booker, the Sarasota high school that put up a 4-5 record in 2002. This year, Gilmore has led the Tornadoes to a sparkling 13-1 record and, even better, a berth in the 2003 Class 3A State semifinals.
On Wednesday, Coach Gilmore was rewarded for everything he has done at Booker High, as he was named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' High School Football Coach of the Week. During a ceremony on Tampa Bay's practice field, Coach Gilmore was presented with a framed "Coach of the Week" certificate, signed by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, General Manager Rich McKay and Head Coach Jon Gruden. He also received a football autographed from Gruden.
Gilmore appreciates all of the accolades he has received over the last few weeks, but he knows he could not have done it alone.
"I think people believe in the Booker Nation," said Gilmore. "It's a credit to these kids. I appreciate everything that people do for us and that they think I turned it around, but it's the nation that did it and it's getting bigger and bigger."
Just as important to the Tornadoes program as its undying fan support is the work done behind the scenes by Coach Gilmore's assistant coaches, of whom Sherman Rackley (defensive line), Larry Richardson (wide receivers) and Brian Ryals (offensive coordinator/running backs) joined him at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday.
"They're everything," said Coach Gilmore. "I'm only one person. They get into the heads of the kids. Besides getting them set up to play the game from a physical standpoint, they get them ready from a mental standpoint and that helps us get better. This staff has been together for a while, but we changed head coaches three times in the last four years. This is the first year we had continuity, and the kids knew what we wanted."
In addition to the certificate and ball, Coach Gilmore will also receive a $1,000 donation to his Tornadoes football program. He and his staff had the added bonus of watching the Buccaneers' morning practice.
"It's an outstanding honor," said Coach Gilmore on being named Coach of the Week. "I want to thank the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Coach Gruden and all the staff for treating us so well. It means a lot."
If you know a coach that you feel is deserving of being the Buccaneers "Coach of the Week," please click here and submit his or her name, school, county and reason he or she should be selected.
Several factors are taken into account when selecting the Buccaneers Coach of the Week recipient, including the coach's impact on his or her team, school and community. The program is designed to recognize high school coaches who transform, through their hard work and dedication to young people, the best available athletes into high-potential football players.
All schools in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota are eligible regardless of size, league or division.