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'Hearts and souls, not X's and O's': Ted Ginn Sr. leads Glenville football on and off the field

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Andre Haynes
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Glenville High School
Glenville High School's football team is 14-0 heading into Saturday's Division IV state title game.

Cleveland’s Glenville High School football team is 14-0 heading into Saturday’s OHSAA Division IV title game against Cincinnati Wyoming at Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Glenville is making its third trip to a state championship game since 2009 but is seeking its first title in program history.

In fact, commentator Terry Pluto says no school from Cleveland’s Senate Athletic League has won a state title. But for most Glenville kids, it’s not about the titles.

“Since Ted Ginn has been there, they've sent over 100 players to Division I schools. They've had more than 20 in the NFL. That doesn't count, as [Ginn] told me, a couple hundred going to Division II and Division III schools. He says it's not just about getting the kid to the NFL, it’s getting them to college, and getting them squared away in high school."

Ted Ginn Sr. has been coach at Glenville for 25 years. In 2007, he helped establish Ginn Academy, an all-boys high school for at-risk Cleveland students.

“Ted Ginn really views this whole thing as a ministry and a calling. He keeps stressing is not about X's and O's, it's about hearts and souls,” Pluto said.

Pluto said Ginn talked a lot about the stigma attached to inner city schools like Glenville, where discipline problems and disorganization are expected.

“Do you see some of the programs in there that look like that? Yes, you do. Do I see some programs also maybe in the suburbs and elsewhere, and once in a while, even the NFL that look like, did they practice all week? They’re mouthing off and getting in fights? Yes, I do.”

Pluto said Ginn also has an old-school style of running his team, where he prohibits players from stuffing cell phones in their pads. He also embraces “The Table.”

“It's an interesting metaphor and is so true. He said when he was growing up in Glenville in a single-family home with his mom and grandma, they were at the dinner table. He says, ‘Now, really, who's at the table or where's the table?’ The cell phones become the table.”

Ginn also holds some form of a chapel service “about every day” for his players.

“As he says, ‘I have everything from Muslim kids to Jehovah's Witnesses to Catholics to Christians, to people who aren't sure where they are.’ But he says, ‘I'm speaking to the heart and the soul, because if all I do is win games, that's not my job. I'm here for the kids.’”

The 67-year-old Ginn is a pancreatic cancer survivor. And he told Pluto he has no plans of slowing down.

“He said, ‘I don't believe God brought me back to just go somewhere and sit around.’”

Pluto says Glenville is a team to cheer on this weekend.

“There’s a lot of good stories in the city that the people don't see, but this is one that I think could really put a bow on a lot of the things that he's done.”

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.