Monday, July 24, 2023

Guest Blog: Observations and Reflections From a Millennial Single-Wing Coach -The Power of Living in Your Own World

I have to honor of posting some EXCELLENT observations once again from my friend, Clint Humphrey.

Clint Humphrey is currently the Offensive Coordinator at Excel High School in Excel, Alabama. He previously has served as OC at St. Luke's Episcopal (his alma mater) and Demopolis High School. He has had position coaching stints at Murphy High School and Stanhope Elmore High School. He is married to Morgan Williamson Humphrey and they are enjoying life as new parents!

As soon as I read this, I was pumped to share it with my readers! So here is the latest from Clint:

In my previous guest blog post, I mentioned just how blessed I have been to have met many coaches during my ten years in this profession. I am fortunate and thankful that Jay keeps an open invitation for me to write him something to post. Usually, I don’t have much to say that people would be interested in reading, and I’m not sure this post will be any different. Still, I enjoy sharing my observations as I grow in this profession and life and hope they can make a difference in someone who reads them.

As I grow older in life and football, I continuously realize just how much the two parallel each other and how important that realization is. A surface-level understanding of that concept is easy as we have all heard (or given) speeches comparing the two or talking about one’s importance regarding the other. One thing that I have recently spent much thought on is priorities and their importance. Since making this stop I have made a change in offensive systems. A system I learned years ago that I kept as a change-up became the fastball that,

I believe, has helped us turn our program around. The new system introduced new methods, ways of thinking, and practicing. It has even created a considerable shift in those priorities that I have spent much time pondering.

At its core, we employ a single-wing system on offense. Invented close to the turn of the century by Glenn Pop Warner, and it has changed how I will view life and football forever. The only offense that predates the Single Wing in modern(ish) football is the T Formation which was very successful in its own right at first, but as the forward pass became more popular (and legal), the game began to transition away from that under center, full house attack and transitioned more towards what Pop was doing.

The offense, even in its own time, was an oddball. In the early 1900s, most football strategies revolved around simply overpowering opponents. It was a brutal game that, on several occasions, almost got banned.

Games would draw thousands of people to what some authors, like Christopher Klein of History Channel, have described as “killing fields.” The lethality of the sport was something that was turning many Americans away.

Football was much different then than what we are used to now; that style saw helmetless scrums of men try to pile drive ball carriers into the ground. One newspaper wrote that the sport had “degenerated” into nothing more than “gladiatorial combat in the arena in ancient Rome.” which caused some important people to get involved, the most important of which was President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.

Thankfully they were able to come to an agreement that saved the game that we now love. I could talk forever about the exciting beginnings of the different variations of the single wing, but the point is that we stand out in today’s high school football world. When we initially went to this system, we worried that we would see junk defenses and wouldn’t understand how to handle them, but, going into our third year full-time in the system, we realize that it does the opposite. It usually forces people to play a more straightforward base defense due to their time restraints within a week of preparation. 

The uniqueness we believe gives us a distinct advantage. It allows us to play in what we call “our world.” We spend little time worrying about what other teams may do and more time focusing on how sound our rules are and our physical preparation so that we can handle anything opponents can throw at us. This method can be applied similarly to life. In the same way, football constantly evolves, so does the world, and technology, social media, television, etc., are speeding up that process.

With all that being said, These are just a few observations and reflections about the offense and the impact that I believe it has had on my life and my perspective of it.

Live in your world

I mentioned our concern with junk defenses and different looks we could get which would create uncertainty each week, but if I'm honest, another concern was the perception of what we were doing if it didn’t work. Even if it did work… would people like it? Of course, there are always people who believe that you should be doing something else on offense. But our interesting little town embraced this system with open arms. It was a call back to former years under the leadership of legendary coaches like Bo Bishop and Al Bowen.

This throwback offense fits perfectly in this little throwback town about halfway between Montgomery and Mobile. I will never forget a summer afternoon when I drove home from practice (about 30 seconds across town) I stopped at a stop sign across the street from Excel Baptist Church. In the parking lot was a group of kids riding their bikes in a circle, not sure what they were doing, maybe popping wheelies. Each day when I drive home I see a whiffle ball game in a back yard, touch football going on the practice field, or a father with his son in a batting cage or daughter on the softball field working on fundamentals. In these moments I can’t help but think that these are images that you only see in an episode of the Andy Griffith Show, not stuff that you see in 2023. In a world where you can’t stop to help a child on the side of the road for fear of abduction, in our town, our kids can live lives that are depicted in movies such as The Sandlot, Griffith, and Little Giants. This is a blessing that I never even realized was a thing until we moved here.

This town has played a pivotal role in the identity of our program. Tough, blue-collar, hard-nosed people that have a heart for their football program that works tirelessly to make them proud on Friday nights. 

Whether we play at home or on the road teams will have to step back into our world and our throwback offense and play football as if they live at the turn of the century. I believe now and always that it will be a pivotal advantage to us moving forward and I believe more schools could benefit from a style of offense such as this.

Be where your feet are

One knock on offenses similar to what we run is that they are not very good in two-minute situations. I agree that our offense does not lend itself to that type of situation. Still, we have had remarkable success in those two-minute situations, or situations like them, that lead me to believe it is a mindset more than anything.

In two seasons we have faced nine situations that were two-minute or functioned as two-minute and we scored or were in scoring position at the end of the drive in all nine situations and scored on six of those nine drives.

The mindset I am talking about is not a mindset of going fast but of being where your feet are. Nick Saban talks about this often saying that they encourage their players to “focus on the play like it has a history and a life of its own”. What he is trying to do is get his players to be where their feet are and not think about the situation, the score, the crowd yelling at them, etc. just be in the moment and make plays as they come to you.

I believe this is directly translatable to life. I am the guiltiest of all people in doing this but we view life through an iPhone which isn't how we were created. Sometimes I catch myself laying on the floor of my son's room worrying about football, a phone call I need to return, or scrolling Twitter. What I should be doing is living in the moment not thinking about anything but what is in front of me. The worry and anxieties that we face in his generation I believe (I am no expert) are a direct reflection of the seemingly unlimited access to everything all at the same time. Always looking at what others have or what they will do next, concerned about how to keep up. Fear of missing out is real and can lead to us missing out on the things right in front of us if we aren’t careful.


I have already talked about our town and the vast impact it has had on our program and ultimately style of offense. Still, I never imagined the impact it would have on me professionally or personally. A time machine in some regards our town is built around our school and because of that our school controls the pulse of town in many ways. We pack the stadium during the fall, the gym in the winter, and the ballparks in the spring. It is something to behold—a South Alabama gem tucked away in our neck of the woods. Someone told me when we moved here that stuff moves a little slower. I believe them now. Things are simpler here.

Sometimes our offense seems complicated. A bevy of traps, counters, off-tackle runs, and sweeps in the boundary trying to outnumber or confuse opponents while our QB is often spinning in a circle while all this is happening. I wouldn’t call it complex, I would call it nuanced with layers designed to seem complicated when it isn’t.

When we arrived two years ago we had no idea we would be spinning in circles and direct snapping the ball to backs to try and put ourselves in a spot to win games but one thing that did quickly become clear was that we needed to simplify. At the time it carried an almost negative connotation with it. I see now that it was never negative and that simple is both a better way to play football and to live life.

I heard this week on a podcast Sean McVay, Head Coach of the LA Rams discussed many of the struggles that he faced after losing the Super Bowl and the constant pursuit that ensued after getting back, and the dark places that it took him. 

Depressed, unsure, and lacking confidence, he seemed to have nearly lost himself in pursuing perfection. Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence” I don’t believe I am more intelligent than Vince Lombardi. Still, I am not sure that is the mindset we should have while chasing whatever passion we are chasing. 

Sean McVay goes on to say that we shouldn’t be chasing perfection, instead we should be striving to improve each day, just a little bit. He eventually overcame the depression and confusion (and QB problems) and got back to the Superbowl and got the win that he was chasing for all those years. It was that more straightforward mindset shift that empowered him he believed to put his team in the best place to be successful.

Ecclesiastes 4:6 is an excellent example of what Mcvay talked about. It is crucial to have a work-life balance, I am learning that now more than ever as a father. This verse says, “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and striving after wind.” A struggle to find the balance between striving to be the best we can be at work while we are also called to be the best we can be in life. That requires rest and some relaxation.

It’s much easier to slow down in the small town I am blessed to live in and I encourage everyone to find a way to simplify so they can more easily do the same.

These are opinions and just personal observations that I hope are helpful to someone!

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