By Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
Just before heading out for the midwinter break that concludes this weekend, Chief Sealth International High School football players were served a sizable helping of food for thought.
It came in a closed-door meeting with their new coach, Luther Carr III (right), last Friday afternoon. Immediately afterward, we got a chance to talk with the coach whose appointment was announced two days earlier, three months after athletic director Sam Reed announced the search for a new coach, following years of losing seasons.
The day of his first Sealth team meeting – Friday, February 17th — was Coach Carr’s first day on the job.
He has coached high school football in Seattle before – a decade ago at Garfield High School, where he had played – but he has spent recent years working at the collegiate level, including time coaching wide receivers and running backs at Montana, and along the way, a year as a graduate assistant under former University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisel. Most recently, Carr worked as a coach and recruitment coordinator at the University of Idaho. That helped pave the way for this, because his recruiting turf included Seattle, so he says he’s seen the area teams on video. “I recruited these areas; I know the coaches.”
As helpful as that is, his decisionmaking was in no small part assisted by his sister, who may have provided the strongest recommendation. She has “two high-school-age kids who are in athletics,” Carr explains, “and she gets to go to all the schools … She said, ‘You’re going to like Chief Sealth’.”
Some of what he likes already: A newly renovated facility; a fulltime athletic trainer; the Southwest Athletic Complex. “There’s a good population of kids here,” he adds, with appreciation for their diversity on a variety of levels, including academics – with advanced-placement courses and International Baccalaureate part of the CSIHS mix.
While Sealth’s football record in recent years isn’t pleasant in terms of wins and losses, “I know there are some athletes here,” Carr says.
Even though, of course, he’s spent more time recruiting from more-successful West Seattle High School than from Sealth in recent years – with his catches including Aaron Grymes, who started all 12 games last year for the Vandals.
But Sealth is poised to break out, Carr thinks: “Everybody thinks this is a sleeping giant over here.”
He’s working to assemble his coaching team; when we talked with him last Friday, he had spent a few days interviewing assistants, and noted, “So far, I like what I see from the ones who were here last year – they know more about these guys than I do.” Finalizing his staff is job 1, since over the next few months, he won’t be seeing much of the players, aside from checking in to make sure they’re going to class and working out. Most of them, he notes, are playing spring sports, anyway. He’ll also be getting his playbooks printed.
So what will be in those playbooks, anyway – what about Carr’s style of play? He says he hopes that observers will be able to say, “Those guys play fast, they’re physical, they know what they are doing, they execute perfectly every time.” It’s not going to be complicated, nor some big mystery: “Teams are going to know what we’re going to do – we’re just going to do it better. … I want to make it extremely simple. I want the kids who graduate from here to be able to come back and coach here; I want (future alums) to be able to go to the homecoming game and call out the plays because they know what we’re doing.”
Getting the Sealth football program into that groove will take a while, Carr says. “It’s not going to be an overnight success; I’m thinking long term. By the time (an incoming player’s in his) third year in the system, it’s a heck of a team. … But if we do the right thing, and the right thing well, the victories will come.”
The “right thing,” in his view, also includes a higher profile for the team in the community, such as volunteer work. “Maybe done with a Chief Sealth jersey on,” he smiles.
The savvy comes with time and experience: “I feel a whole lot stronger now than when I was 27 years old and took over the Garfield program.” Back in high-school coaching now, not only is he hoping to help bring success to Sealth football – there’s something in it for him too. After a lot of work on the road, “I’m looking for some stability in life.”
Balance, too: The day before our interview, he had turned in his application to become a substitute teacher. His specialties, he told us, are social studies and history.
And in the off-hours, maybe a little more football:
“I want to go watch the Seahawks.” As in Seattle Seahawks, not Chief Sealth Seahawks, since he’ll already be watching, and teaching, them.