Frankie Munoz may wake up to his alarm clock at home, but nothing makes the Ozark linebacker more full of life than arriving at school and seeing new Tigers coach Jeremy Cordell.
During the Tigers’ summer workouts in the wee hours of the morning this month, Munoz has repeatedly received all the motivation he can ask for from Cordell, whether it’s in his words, actions or his sheer presence.
“Cordell is different. He's sparked a love for football in me,” Munoz said. “I’ve never been around someone with so much energy. You wake up and you're thinking, ‘It's 5 o’clock in the morning, why are we clapping?’ Then, you get hit with something with him, I don't know what it is — if it’s the aura around him or what. But you see him and you start clapping harder and when you get in the weight room, you start lifting harder and then you get out on the field and start sprinting and working harder and harder. Being around that man gives me that feeling.”
Safety Peyton Bullinger can also attest to the many positives Cordell’s presence has produced.
“He's bouncing around in the mornings at 5:30 screaming, yelling, hootin' and hollering,” Bullinger said. “The energy in the mornings during weights is great. We're all jumping around and hyped. It's energy non-stop.”
The consensus among the Tigers is Cordell has wasted no time making an immeasurable impact on them.
“He’s already made a huge impact in his short time being here,” linebacker Charles Lawson said. “The atmosphere here is amazing. It's a whole new feeling and whole new energy.”
Lawson has received all the confirmation he needed to realize he made the right decision to come back out for football for his senior year.
“I was kind of debating on football. I was hesitant. But he has sparked a love for football inside of me,” Lawson said. “There's no place I'd rather be than out here. He's getting all our guys hyped up. Being around him, I've seen he's a great guy and great coach. He's taking time away from his family to be out here with us. I'm having a heck of a time with him.”
Linebacker Parker Elliott feels a special bond with Cordell, with Cordell doubling as the Tigers’ linebackers coach.
“Having him as my position coach has brought a whole new game for me as far as reads and assignments,” Elliott said. “Having him here is amazing.”
Elliott added the respect the Tigers have for Cordell is also evident in the timely manner in which they report to workouts.
“We're always early. Everything is in order and we all come together and rally up,” he said. “When you don't want to get up in the morning, you've got to be able to count on everyone to have energy and everyone is ready to go.”
Likewise, Cordell is happy to relate the Tigers have made a favorable impression on him. He’s thrilled with the manner in which they have responded to his coaching.
“I can say whatever I want, spin on my head or do jumping jacks, but if they don't want to follow then it doesn't matter,” Cordell said. “I have all the respect in the world for the guys. We’ve got really good kids. They grind, they work hard and are team-first guys. You can be successful with those types of kids.”
As for his already well-reputed high level of energy, Cordell said to expect more of the same. He hopes his love for the game rubs off on his players and truly believes they will play harder for a coach who they know cares about them.
“I am who I am. I'm an open book. Who you see is who you get,” Cordell said. “I’m going to have energy, I'm going to tell you how it is and love you up, but I'm also maybe going to chew on you a little bit. I'm going to make sure you're maximizing who you are.
“It's all about relationships,” he added. “They don't care how much you know about X's and O's, they want to know how much you care. If you coach a kid up and have a true relationship with them and let them know you care, you really start seeing the buy-in and takeoff.”
Cordell’s impact is also showing up in Ozark’s sheer numbers. He has succeeded in getting players the likes of Munoz and Lawson who were border-line on football to play, as well as recruiting basketball player Ryan Engel to strap on shoulder pads.
“We need to maximize our athletes,” Cordell said.
The Tigers can only hope they play as good as they look. During workouts, they are all outfitted in the same shirt and shorts.
“I believe in being a team — if we say compression top and black shorts, it better be compression top and black shorts,” Cordell said. “Here’s what I believe, if you can't even wear the right stuff, you probably can't do the right things on the football field.
“You learn a lot about kids and adults, too, when you ask them to follow simple directives, whether they can execute those or not,” he added. “You learn if you can trust them or not in the line of fire. I'm very old-school in that way. You can walk into our gym at 5:40 in the morning and they're all lined up with their sub-teams and their captains. They're wearing the same thing and speaking the same language.”