Jon Gruden is the most successful third-string quarterback ever to play for the Dayton Flyers. His Super Bowl victory as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a renewed contract this week as an analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football are proof enough.
But there’s a whole lot more to the man who was tagged “Chucky” for his scowling likeness to a certain horror film character. For Gruden, it doesn’t get any better than his Fired Football Coaches Association team.
“I’m trying to create awareness that if you can afford anything, please give back to your local high school football programs,” Gruden said by phone Thursday from his home in Tampa. “These coaches and kids, they need our help. I’m pretty passionate about it.”
Gruden will bring his FFCA team to Dick’s Sporting Goods at The Mall at Fairfield Commons on Saturday. Ten area high school football programs will receive about $2,500 each and other equipment perks.
Coaches and players from those schools will huddle with Gruden, talk about their favorite sport and mug for photos.
The program has been in existence for several years, usually at locales where the Monday Night Football game is held. The Bengals host the Broncos on Monday. Gruden contacted his coach at UD, Mike Kelly, who in turn contacted the area schools.
Gruden also said he’ll dine at Dayton’s Pine Club afterward — “It’s been too long since I’ve ate there” — and will watch Saturday night’s UD men’s basketball game against visiting Boston University.
While at UD he was mostly a sub on the 1982-84 teams. After leaving, he immediately went into collegiate coaching, eventually landing as the Oakland Raiders’ head coach. Raiders owner Al Davis unloaded him in a rare NFL coaching trade to Tampa Bay. Gruden won the 2003 Super Bowl in his first season with the Bucs, ironically beating the Raiders.
Eventually, he was fired by Tampa Bay.
“I got fired and the only job I could get was coaching my son’s high school football team,” Gruden reflected. “I was the offensive line coach and I found out real quick that these coaches and programs, they don’t have enough pads, they don’t have enough footballs, they don’t get paid. These coaches’ budgets are being reduced to almost nothing. And they need our help.”
The FFCA has teamed with Dick’s, GoPro Camera, Wilson and Goalrilla Sports and Training as major sponsors.
“We’ve had them all over the country the last couple of years and we’re really excited to get to Dayton,” Gruden said. “I’m not coaching but I’m still wrapped up in football and this gives me an opportunity to give back to a game that was really good to me and my family.”