Once an eagle always an eagle

Bree Gannon, Sports Editor

Bright white glows up the green turf below the lights of Jack Miller Stadium. High rows of bleachers full of screaming fans decked in purple and gold, stomping their feet. The sound of the cheers echoing throughout the stadium and fills the ears of the players on the field and the coaches on the sideline. For most the cheers coming from the crowd fuel the hungry craving of motivation to win. For Taylor Housewright, that fuel used to pump him up on the field but now it flows through him on the sidelines as he coaches those players that now stand in his spot.

Housewright has called Ashland home for a while and is known in Ashland High School and Ashland University athletics. Between leading the Arrows to the state final four and leading the Eagles to one of the best seasons in program history, Housewright has made a name for himself in football. Over the years he has since evolved that name from the thought of a player to a well-rounded coach.

“I knew I wanted to coach ever since I can remember” Housewright said. “ I never wanted to do anything else and right out of college I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina with my buddies until the coaching thing became open. It ended up becoming open halfway through the season, which was the first season I wasn’t playing, at Miami of Ohio. The head coach was fired and the interim head coach brought me on to help learn the offense. I knew I was going to get into it eventually.”

The start of Housewright’s journey began when he started peewee football and continued even when he was roaming the halls of Ashland High School. During his time as an Arrow, he was under the wing of Scott Valentine, AU Hall of Famer and former player and lead the team to one of most impressive seasons recorded. During three varsity seasons, Housewright completed 479 passes for 6,582 yards. The quarterback also recorded 67 touchdowns and 30 touchdown passes to one interception and 68 percent of attempts completed.

Probably one of Housewrights biggest accomplishments as an Arrow, was leading his team to a chance at a State Championship in 2007. That chance though, ended a lot sooner than the team would have wanted but Housewright help the Arrows make it to the Division II Final Four.

Despite the heartbreaking loss, Housewright was still optimistic about his future. He was knew he wanted to continue playing but the question was where would it continue and the thought of Ashland University wasn’t even in his head.

“I didn’t think I would go to Ashland until probably January 15, 2008,”Housewright recalled. “I had an offer from Ashland and couple other but in Division I, I didn’t have any offers so this was, to me, the best fit. I knew a new facility was being built because I knew the people in town that were going to build it, so I knew it was coming. Matt LaFour the offensive coordinator, was the one that recruited me.”

Coming into his first year as an Eagle, Housewright redshirted and was the backup quarterback to Billy Cundiff. Before his starting debut in 2010, Housewright watched Cundiff and took notes on the way he played. His first starting season, the team went 8-3 and his first game was recorded as a win. In the second, he threw a three-pick, third game he threw two-picks and the fourth a one-pick. After a starting season record of 1-3, Housewright and the rest of the team rattled off seven wins in a row and ended up with their 8-3 record and barely missed the playoffs.

“I started out rough but going into junior year there were high expectation,” Housewright said. “We had a lot of young guys on offense and I think I played with nine freshmen on offense. We ended up going 6-5 so not the expectations that you think of compared to previous seasons, which was embarrassing.”

Housewright also said that season during a game against Saginaw Valley State, he got hurt and was unable to finish the rest of the game. He said it was a game they lost but should have won. The team had a few big wins that year but an overall up and down season.

“The last game of the year was against Lake Erie and they were not a great team and we should have beat them but we didn’t and it was a big downer,” Housewright said. “It was bad for program because we had high expectations.”

Housewright credits that season as a blessing in disguise due to the amount of guys that stayed after the season was over and were motivated to do better than before.

“Coach Owens made sure we knew that we could have been better,” Housewright said. “He worked us and I remember that summer we had a lot of guys here to play. It was 2012 and my last year and we had a great team.”

The 2012 team consisted of many great leading stat holders for the AU Athletic program. Some of those players were Jamie Meader who is currently playing for the Cleveland Browns. Bryan Gamble a then transfer student from Illinois who caught two touchdowns in a Rose Bowl game during his freshman year. He was the team’s safety. Cody Bloom filled the middle linebacker position and is one of the all time lead tacklers for AU. On offense, Dan Piko was a receiver who is almost in the top in every stat category in the record book. There was also Anthony Taylor who ended up being the all time leading rusher.

“We knew we could be good but we didn’t know how good,” Housewright said. “One thing led to another and all of a sudden we are conference champs undefeated, Top 5 team in the country and have great playing defense and offense.”

Housewright helped lead the team to their 11-0 undefeated season, a season that will be remembered as one of the program’s best. Playoffs came and brought the freezing cold temperatures along with the fire of competition.

“Playoffs came and we are in the second round of playoffs,” Housewright said. “It was freezing cold and I remember not playing so hot and we lost by five. We were down by five and got 80 yards to go in 45 seconds and we drive all the way down and I got sacked. I had the opportunity to get rid of the ball but was sacked to end my college career.”

Housewright chuckled and remembered that the way he ended his college career was the same way he ended his high school career.

“It’s kind of funny my senior year in high school we lost and I got sacked on the last play of the game and then my high school career was over,” Housewright said. “Then my senior year here in the playoffs on the last play of the game, the same thing happens which is interesting.”

Despite the rough ending, Housewright has many positives to his time playing on the field such as an extensive list of awards and accomplishments. From 2010-2012, Housewright had the total offense record, All-GLIAC honorable mention 2010-2011, had the most single-game total offense yards in 2012 and earned the highest placement by an Eagle in the Harlon Hill Trophy voting and finished fifth. Housewright was also named All- GLIAC first team and was the GLIAC player of the year in 2012. He even attended the Cincinnati Bengals’ rookie minicamp in 2013.

After graduation, Housewright moved to Charlotte and started managing a bar. At the end of October that year, Miami of Ohio’s head coach was fired and the interim coach Mike Bath reached out to Housewright and offered him a job.

“Bath called me and said ‘I think they are going to hire me, do you want to help me?’” Housewright said. “He wanted to install the offense we ran at Ashland. I thought to myself ‘is this a dream’ so I called my dad and told him and he told me that I would be stupid to not take the opportunity. So I quit my job and moved to Oxford and helped coach quarterbacks.”

After that season, Miami fired all of their football staff, so Housewright was left without a job once again. He moved back to Ashland with some friends and decided to attend a coaches convention in search of a new job. After Miami hired a new staff, Housewright reached out to a familiar person to him in hope of a job.

“I knew the new coach at Miami, Chuck Martin, and he hired me as a graduate assistant on defense,” Housewright said. “I was there for the rest of the spring, summer and the following fall and I think we won one or two games in my first year. That following spring, I left and got a job at Wittenberg.”

Housewright got the job at Wittenberg with the help of Coach Martin, who knew the coach there. The program at Wittenberg has averaged nine wins a year in the last 21 years since head coach Joe Finchman arrived in 1996. Housewright coached receivers at the Division III level school and enjoyed his time there.

“Wittenberg is a great school with great kids,” Housewright said. “Kids are playing there for the right reasons and just because they love it, it’s not paying their way through because it is a D-III so they really enjoy it.”

During Housewright’s time there, the team went 9-1 and lost to the undefeated team that won the conference. The Tigers came in second that year in the conference. After completing a year with the Tigers, Housewright received a call from coach Owens asking him if he wanted to return to Ashland and coach receivers.

“It was a great opportunity,” Housewright said. “After being back for a year, the position to coach defensive backs became open and coach moved me over there to defense and it has been good ever since.”

The adjustment from being coached to being the coach is two different worlds that Housewright is fortunate enough to experience.

“ Being a player you don’t see the ins and outs and how the organization is run,” Housewright said. “The off the field aspect of things and you only get to see the what he is telling you as a player and what he needs you to do. So there is a big difference just to learn from him and his experiences. Coaching at Ohio State and being a Division I at Akron and now here and all the success he’s had, I’ve learned a ton from seeing the other side of it. Just from how to manage players, people, games play, organization, fundraising and all that stuff so it’s pretty neat to see that side of it as well and get the whole view of it as a player and compare it to a coach and see both sides.”

The journey Housewright has had is something he describes as an enjoyment. The advice he would give to current players or graduated players that are looking to coach, is make as many contacts as you can and be patient and if you really enjoy it, it will pay off in the end.

“Try to make as many contacts as possible,” Housewright said. “Be ready to work, you have to work your way up and start low and eventually you will have more and more responsibility each year and you just have to be more patient because it’s a long process. In this profession if you are getting paid to coach you sport you grew up playing as a kid, it’s going to be hard to get into because everybody wants to do it. At the same time do it for the right reason, don’t do it for money, do it because you enjoy it and enjoy being with the kids, that is the best part about being around the guys.”

Housewright is looking forward to the rest of his journey at Ashland and is happy that his journey led him back home, even if it is home.

“Its neat being back in town and coaching at the school you played at,” Housewright said. “I keep trying to leave Ashland and I keep getting sucked back in but it’s not bad. I really enjoy what I do.”

Housewright and the football team continue play Saturday (Nov.11) with the regular season’s last game that celebrates the seniors. The Eagles will face Saginaw Valley State starting at 1 p.m.