On a Tuesday afternoon, the AU football room is buzzing with activity. Players lounge on couches or sit at the table, computers out, grinding away on schoolwork. Coaches commune in the head coach’s office to watch film, the door swung wide open to be a part of the larger room. A countdown to the next game ticks away, creating a sense of urgency and hype.
Every week in AU football is different, but Head Coach Johnathan Coddington prepares by watching game film of their opponents. Then, coaches teach new tactics to the team, specific to what players will see on the field in the coming game. The middle of the week brings “heavier” practices including sharpening fundamentals. Players meet with coaches depending on their positions and the whole team is in the weight room three days a week. Then, the team practices run-throughs and correcting mistakes. Saturday brings the game-day atmosphere.
Coddington (pictured below) is in his first season as head coach of the AU football team. An AU alumnus, he said, “To be back here, at a place that I love, that had a big impact on me, was something that I was always really looking forward to and I was hoping would happen. Now here we are, I’m excited to be back.”
Coddington’s educational background is in teaching and ministry. He was at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, MI as a graduate assistant on the football team. Throughout his time at Concordia, Coddington moved into various roles involving offensive positions, offensive coordinator, specialty teams and recruiting. Handling some of the logistics of the football team helped him have a better understanding of the efforts of operating a program.
“There’s a lot of aspects of coaching that [are] very similar to ministry as well. Whether it’s the individual relationships with people to help try to invest in them and help them grow more than just as a player but as a person and, hopefully, take some steps in their faith.” Coddington said. “And always thinking about their well-being, I think there’s a lot of overlap between that and coaching as well too.”
Now, as a head coach, Coddington has new factors to consider: player relationships, managing the coaching staff and implementing the offense.
While he loves the sport, Coddington said the most important part of AU football is the guys on the team. “The amount of time spent invested into helping these guys get better is great, but making sure that they’re invested in, off the field as well, whether it’s in their personal lives, their academics, their spiritual life, any way that we can to help these guys just be developed in all those areas and reach their potential is definitely the reason why we do this.”
Senior Connor Huffman, a returning all-conference player, defensive captain and defensive linebacker notes the call he got from Coddington upon being hired. The coach had reached out to all returning players to introduce himself and learn more about them. “It is more of a family feeling with Coach Coddington as our head coach,” said Huffman.
Football is 0-4 this year. “Even in the midst of the scoreboard not saying what we wanted it to say, our guys are continuing to play really hard,” Coddington said. “They have not given up, they haven’t quit. We’ve played all 60 minutes on both of those football games.” Coddington points out the character that this takes.
He said, “Our goals don’t really make us any different than anybody else, but how we pursue those is ultimately going to lead to whether we reach them or not. And so we try to talk about the standards and making sure that those are really high at a championship level.”
However, this football team is different from any past group in other ways. “I think part of the uniqueness is just in everybody’s individual personalities and what they bring to the team…This is a team that is sticking together,” Coddington said. “They’re not all going their separate ways and just trying to do their own thing and go after their own individual goals.”
Huffman said, “Coming from last year, it was a night and day difference in the first month of having a new coaching regime. It is a totally different feeling of brotherhood and family that is essential to having a great football program, and I am so excited to see where this team goes.”
This team wants to play the “Raven way,” which Coddington describes as their brand of football. It’s all about relationships, loving one another and positive energy. He said, “[We want] that love to carry and spill out onto the rest of the community as well too.”
At AU, Coddington preaches team culture. He said, “That’s not something that you can take for granted. And it’s not something you can just assume will happen. You’ve got to make sure that every single day you’re intentionally developing that.” To adopt culture, Coddington says it is talked about in meetings and enforced by all members of the program.
He emphasizes focus on the team that they are becoming. Coddington said, “I think that we’re gonna match up well in our conference. I think that we’re going to continue, you know, each week we [are] going to get better as a team to where by week whatever– it may be week five, week six, week seven– that’s going to be a better football team than what we saw week one, week two, week three.”
Football started its conference season this past Saturday, Sept. 30 at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Their next game is on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 1:30 p.m. The Ravens will take on the Franklin Grizzlies at AU for Homecoming. Fans can keep up with live stats or video at Anderson Athletics.