Most high school football coaches are guilty of taking their work home with them each night, but in most cases, that doesn't include a couple of players.
Some coaches go off the clock each night when their team leaves the locker room after practice, but there are some like Richard Schrader, who resigned last month as head coach at Greenville County's Woodmont High School. He was just 14-42 in five seasons, but he's always believed success should be defined by factors other than just wins and losses.
For the last half decade Schrader touched the lives of numerous players, guiding them and steering them down the straight and narrow, but his greatest impact was on the three who became a permanent part of his family. That group includes adopted son, Alex, and the Houston brothers: Johnnie, a freshman corner at Coastal Carolina, and Woodmont senior corner Okoye, a North-South all-star who has committed to Buffalo.
"I've been coaching for 15 years and I've had players periodically that were in tough situations," Schrader said. "They've come and stayed with me for a little while or quite awhile. We've had players that have come and gone, so my biological children are just accustomed to having players at the house."
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But none of them have become a part of the family in the way that Alex and the Houstons did. They are three shining examples of the impact a coach can have on his players.
After spending his first 18 years in a boy's home, the Schraders legally adopted Alex, who took their last name, and helped him earn an opportunity to play football at Lenoir-Rhyne. He is now back home and may continue his college career at North Greenville.
Schrader's wife, Amy, taught Okoye in middle school, and though the Houstons were never bad kids, she feared they wouldn't touch their academic and thus athletic potential if they weren't thrust into the right situation. So, the Houstons' mother signed over legal guardianship to the Schraders in 2008, allowing them to help script her sons' futures.
"It's just a natural extension of our family's ministry to players," Amy said. "We are people of deep faith, and we believe that what we do as teachers is not just a job but a calling. To be a part of what my husband was doing, I felt we needed to bring boys into our home for dinner, take them on visits or whatever needed to be done.
"Every experience we've had with a ball player has been rewarding. Johnnie and Okoye are great young men. They've been great men for a long time. They could have been successful on their own with a lot of hard work ... but when the opportunity came up for us to offer them a space in our home, it seemed like the natural thing to do."
The Houstons still see their parents on a routine basis, but the Schraders and their three biological children have become their family. With their mother burdened by financial problems, the brothers had bounced around for several years and were living with teammates when their coach approached them about moving in.
"Sometimes I just sit back and think, 'What would have happened if I had never moved in?'" Okoye said. "I'm so happy that I did. ... If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be going to college right now. He helped me out and took me in to his family. If he hadn't done that, I probably wouldn't even be here right now."
Okoye is ranked as South Carolina's 30th-best player in the Class of 2010. It was a surprise when Buffalo and coach Turner Gill landed the 6-foot, 185-pounder, who could eventually fill the shoes of graduating standout safety Mike Newton for the Bulls. Johnnie, a burner with sub-4.4 speed, redshirted at Coastal this year, but the coaching staff fully expects him to make an impact sooner than later. He could also eventually move to safety.
The brothers have plenty of promising options ahead of them, something they didn't have two years ago.
"They helped us reach our goals and be as good as we could be," Johnnie said of the Schraders. "They've helped us plan our lives and just become better people."
To view Hoke's CCU sports blog, "The Roost," go to TheSunNews.com.