Maness Makes Impact at N.M.
Todd Maness and Greg Simmons want to win football games.
The two coaches envision northern Moore County returning to its glory days of high school football, and they have a plan to make it happen.
Though confined to a wheelchair, Maness and his ability to inspire play a key role in achieving that dream.
“We want to breed a culture of winning back up here, and once that gets started you can’t stop it,” Maness said.
Maness and Simmons, North Moore’s head coach, want to build the football program from the ground up. They describe their vision as one team with many different levels: varsity, junior varsity, middle school and youth.
“I want the kids around here to know everybody,” Simmons said. “I want the (older) kids on Friday nights to be like, ‘Hey, Coach Maness,’ and the little kids to say, ‘Hey, Coach Simmons.’”
“Coach Simmons is trying to get everybody involved,” Maness said, “and when we get everybody involved, it becomes a family.”
The coaches’ goal is to create cohesion between the different levels of football, the hope being to establish a strong familial feeling between players of all ages in the program.
Maness described how each age group will be coached to learn offensive and defensive styles similar to Simmons’, thus making the transition from lower to higher levels seamless.
As a result, Simmons will not have to spend the majority of the preseason and early season teaching the basics to his varsity squad. Instead, he will be able to place more focus on the finer points and techniques of the game.
“We’re just trying to build and bring some pride back into this community,” Simmons said. “I think we have a recipe for success, but the recipe starts with the basic ingredients, and Todd’s one of them.”
Maness’ story makes him a standout among coaches and a role model to players.
He graduated from North Moore High School in 1989 with a full scholarship to play football at Wingate University.
In his sophomore year, he was injured in a car accident that left him a quadriplegic. Now 40 years old, he has spent more than half his life in a wheelchair.
“I had everything and was on top of the world,” Maness said. “Then boom! In one second everything is gone and you’ve just got to pick up and go from there. That’s the same way it is in football.”
Maness does not let his wheelchair or his handicap define him — he uses them to inspire.
Because of his positive outlook, parents asked him to speak to children while he was in rehab at the Shepherd Center spinal clinic in Atlanta.
Some people give up when their life crashes around them. Maness opts to grip life even harder.
“That’s the way I’ve always been,” he said. “The glass is always half full. Some people say, ‘I don’t know how you do that.’ That’s the only way I know how to do it.”
Maness has lived in Robbins for several years, where he has made a name for himself as a coach and an artist.
As an artist, he has been featured on television for his method of painting — holding a paintbrush in his mouth to make pictures out of thousands of dots. His work can be viewed online at his website.
Despite his accident, Maness has managed to keep football a major part of his life. After spending 17 years coaching football at North Moore, he has now decided to dedicate a chunk of his time helping build the Robbins youth football program.
Former North Moore head coach Jim Hicks called Maness about two weeks after he returned from rehab to tell him he needed to coach the school’s linebackers. At first, Maness was unsure how to go about coaching. He soon realized he could have players demonstrate techniques for him and he could talk them through drills. Eventually, Maness became the defense coordinator for junior varsity and the linebacker coach for the varsity team.
“You listen to Todd talk,” Simmons said, “and he’s a football coach. He doesn’t talk like someone who’s injured. That’s the way he is, and a lot of people get motivation from that.”
Maness runs a program passed down from his own former coaches. He emphasizes “character, class and respect.” He teaches kids to have class, whether they win or lose, saying, “You respect your opponent because if you don’t, you don’t respect yourself.”
He also stresses the importance of education.
“Football coaches are a lot more than just football coaches,” Maness said. “We can get in touch with these kids in a way no one else can.”
Both Maness and Simmons want to reach out to the kids in the community. Through the youth program, they hope to instill a passion for football that will carry players through school. As the program grows, they believe other sports will grow as well. Simmons said North Moore cannot afford to have students specialize in one sport because of its small student population.
Although the program is starting small, Simmons is confident it will grow. He told the players who have come to summer practices that it starts with them. If they make a commitment to continue playing, then the next practice will have more students.
Both Simmons and Maness believe in giving 100 percent, 100 percent of the time.
Simmons visualizes Friday night football as something that holds people together. He said he would love to see the parking lot every Friday night full of fans who have been waiting all week for the game.
“We’re trying to get everyone together so it’s about northern Moore,” Simmons said. “It’s about creating a culture of winning. When things start getting better around here, it’s going to be a surprise to people. It’s not going to be a surprise to us.”
Summer Hennings, a newsroom intern at The Pilot, is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. Contact her at email@example.com.
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