Team Focus is changing the face of America

Here’s an article and a column about Mike Gottfried’s visit to Lawson State with his Team Focus camp.

Gottfried shared a funny Bear Bryant story with me. Gottfried brought his 1982 Cincinnati Bearcats to Bryant-Denny for what ended up to be Bryant’s last homecoming game.

“Before the game a group of my players came to me and asked if I could arrange getting them Coach Bryant’s autograph,” Gottfried said. “I told them, ‘you can get the autographs, just don’t forget to play the game.'” Cincy played Alabama a pretty tough game.

During pre-game warmups Bryant told one of the Cincy players do go get his coach.

“One of my players came over and said ‘Coach Bryant said he wants to talk to you.’ (Bryant) talked really low and I really didn’t understand half of what he said. He did tell us that he would help us by playing a return game at our stadium.”

Bryant was dead before the next season and Gottfried was at Pittsburgh but Alabama did make a return trip to Cincy in 1984 in keeping with Bear’s promise.

Gottfried says Clemson has the talent to run the table this year, but the caveat to that is that the Tigers have a trend working to either start off slow or end the season poorly, so they are still vulnerable. My buddy Shane says Clemson’s Tigers have a bunch of kittens on their offensive line that will make their QB and RBs impotent.

Advertisement: Story continues below

By Hunter Ford

A 13-year-old boy gave me a firm handshake, looked me square in the eye and told me something that put my heart in my throat.

“I know now that if my dad doesn’t want to be in my life then that’s his decision,” the boy, named Ty, said to me.

That’s his dad’s decision, and his loss. Ty has taken part in a youth ministry called Team Focus, organized by former college football coach and current ESPN broadcaster Mike Gottfried.

Gottfried lost his father to a heart attack many years ago. “I still miss my dad,” Gottfried said.

Gottfried was in town last week as Team Focus held one of its five-day Leadership Camps at Lawson State Community College. Boys between 10 and 18, who don’t have fathers in their lives, learn life skills and get a chance to be mentored by counselors. They also learn to help each other.

“We teach how to interview for a job, manners, how to be a leader, how to change the oil in the car,” Gottfried explained. “We play some sports but that’s not the biggest part of it. We play sports to teach teamwork. I remember being 10 or nine or eight…you wanted to get in the game with the big guys. If you got in and you did something, even got one hit, it made you think, ‘Hey I can do this.”

Ty, who has participated in Team Focus for several years, said the program has given him strength and confidence.

“It has made big difference. It changed my life,” Ty said. “Before, I had problems getting along with other people. But I have learned a lot through this and made a lot of progress.”

Team Focus gives the kids the opportunity to meet people they might not otherwise be able to.
16-year-old Kueray said being able to talk with Daryl Perkins an aide on the staff of U.S. Congressman Artur Davis impressed him.

“I was just talking to Mr. Perkins about the government and elections,” he said. “It was very intriguing, very interesting.”

Jack Smith, a former teammate of Gottfried’s at Morehouse State in Kentucky, said Gottfried has always reached out to others.

Advertisement: Story continues below

“He was always about the team and cared about everybody,” Smith said. “This is just so typical of something Mike would do. He’s made a tremendous impact on a lot of kids. I really believe one of our biggest threats is not terrorism or something going on somewhere else in the world, but its gangs in our midst. For every kid that can be in a program like this you’re making that less of a threat.”

Lawson State President Perry Ward, addressing the group of about 70 people, complimented Gottfried for his work, and the kids for their eager participation.

“This gentleman goes around the country making this happen for young people…to keep them on the right track,” Ward said. “You (the kids) are really changing the face of America. You are senators, and mayors and coaches and teachers. Listen to what your counselors have to say, learn, read everything you can and use it.”

Gottfried’s wife Mickey told me about their experiences in the college football world. Gottfried had a winning record as a coach but got fired after a 7-3-1 season at Pitt. He expected to coach again, and could have been the coach at UAB if not for a twist of fate.

“Coaching was good,” Mrs. Gottfried said. “We met a lot of good people. This (Team Focus) has really replaced coaching as the way Mike can use his drive to help kids. I look at it as another season. Mike says this is the best team he ever coached.”

For more information about Team Focus visit