Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Miracle Man

Ginn Sr. among the appreciated

January 30, 2007

Dennis Manoloff

Ted Ginn Sr. received a special tribute Monday night at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards for the opportunities he has provided young athletes in the area.

The Glenville High School football coach was thrilled to be honored -- but not so as to pad his résumé or put another item in his trophy case.

"This is huge because it's about Cleveland kids," said Ginn, whose projects include the Ted Ginn Sr. Foundation. "I don't work for awards or recognition, but if the kids are recognized, that's great. Through the tribute, I want people to know that if you give the kids the right guidance, if you give them the love, patience and understanding, then they can rise to whatever they want to be.

"Youngsters all over the city, all over the country, need a lot of love."

Among the young men who love Ginn is Donte Whitner, who just finished his rookie season as a defensive back with the Buffalo Bills. Whitner, a presenter Monday night at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, played at Glenville and Ohio State before being drafted in the first round by Buffalo.

"Without coach Ginn, I would not be in the National Football League," said Whitner, who had 105 tackles and one interception for the Bills. "He's an amazing human being. He means so much to the entire community. What I learned from coach Ginn goes far beyond football."

Ginn is the subject of a documentary by John Dauphin titled "Winning Lives: The Story of Ted Ginn Sr." It is due out in the fall. Some of the footage was shown at the sports awards.

Dauphin, free-lance writer from Worthington, Ohio, and a public-relations coordinator for NASCAR, has spent countless hours with Ginn since last summer. He cannot get enough.

"I obviously have great respect for his work and what he's attempting to do," Dauphin said. "The bottom line with coach Ginn is he's real, as genuine as it gets. And his love for children is incredible. He goes to great lengths to understand their world, so he can figure out the best way for them to succeed."

Ginn develops such strong ties with his players, they view him as a father figure long past their days in direct contact.

"I feel like a second father, a second adult in their lives after their parents," Ginn said. "I'm privileged to have that role, and I take it very seriously."

Ginn's message, no matter how much athletic talent the youngster possesses, centers on dedication. His son, Ted Jr., certainly listened. Junior is in line to become a high first-round pick in April after three standout seasons as a receiver and a kick returner at Ohio State.

When his son made the decision to turn pro after his junior year, Ginn Sr. kept the advice simple.

"I told him to stay calm and stay humble," Ginn Sr. said. "He is about to enter a whole new world, and he needs to focus on doing the right thing because a lot of people are looking up to him."

Ginn Jr. and Whitner are part of a Glenville pipeline Ginn Sr. has built to Columbus. Another member is Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, who earned the GCSA's Outstanding Collegiate Athlete award. Ginn Sr. said there is no reason the pipeline cannot continue full-throttle.

"As long as the right example is set, you expect good things to happen," Ginn Sr. said. "These young men are providing tremendous motivation for the next group."
Smith has credited Ginn, among others, for his rise to Heisman winner.

"I feel good about that, but it doesn't end there," Ginn Sr. said. "I have to keep going to work."

Smith and LeBron James, named Outstanding Pro Athlete, were not in attendance Monday night. Smith was at a quarterback skills challenge in Florida as part of Super Bowl week; GCSA officials did not receive an explanation from James, who missed his fourth straight GCSA.

Ginn Jr. was among the many big names who did make it. Ginn Jr. was in a walking boot, the result of his middle-foot sprain at the BCS Championship Game in Arizona.

The GCSA, the major annual fund-raiser for the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, is the biggest sports show in Northeast Ohio. Sports Commission officials announced a sellout -- 1,240 -- for the first time in the seven years of the event.

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