SAN ANTONIO — Football is a game that teaches togetherness, discipline and how to rise against adversity to work towards a common goal. It's a game that also teaches diversity and inclusiveness.
But that might not be as true when it comes to head coaches in the college ranks.
According to the diversity research breakdown on NCAA.org, nearly half of all Division 1 college football players are Black. If you isolate that to just the Southeastern Conference, which is home to seven of the last 10 national champions, that numbers balloons to 61%.
And yet, out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision schools, only 13 are led by a Black head coach.
We reached out to three former teammates who are now successful coaches in prominent Power 5 conference schools to find out what the road is like for them on their journey to becoming a college football head coach. They have more than 50 years of coaching experience between them, but none of them have served as a head coach in the college ranks.
"It wasn't for the, I guess, the Xs and Os or the glitz and glamour and all of that," said Lanier Goethie, Duke linebackers coach, of why he decided to get into coaching. "It was more about relationships and being able to develop young men into men."
For Marcus Woodson, defensive backs coach at Florida State, the motivation stemmed from an opportunity to help cultivate the sport's budding stars—in life and on the field.
"I knew right away that my 'why' was to be able to impact the next generation of young men and be an influence in their lives," Woodson said.
Derek Jones, a co-defensive coordinator at Texas Tech, had similar goals.
"The reason I coach football is to be able to give lessons to young people (that) they'll be able to carry the rest of their life," he said.
As for getting to where they are now, Goethie said his road hasn't particularly been a difficult one.
"What I mean by that is, in a sense, nothing that we got came easy," he said. "Nothing that we get comes easy. So whatever hand we're dealt, we make the most of."
For Woodson, the drive to continue climbing the ranks burns bright, even if the statistics are against him.
"I can say it's been a little tougher for me than for some of my colleagues. I have some friends that I came into the profession with who are already head coaches, and I've yet to reach that goal. But that's also motivation for me."
"Nobody's gonna come explain to you why they hire somebody, nobody's gonna come explain to you why they didn't give you an interview," Jones added. "If you sit around and you sulk about it, you'll find yourself very frustrated."
If all three coaches agree on one thing, it's this: the most important job for an up-and-coming minority coach is the one they have right now.
"You grow where you're planted, where your feet are," Goethie said. "Don't be one of those coaches that's always looking for the next big job; as long as I take care of what I got, they'll find me."
"The best job in America is the one you have right now, period," Woodson acknowledged. "I don't care where you're at; you've gotta see the job you're at as the best one you can possibly have. Don't spend so much time looking at what you want next that you're not the best that you can be where you're at."
Jones's advice for those young coaches: Learn to control the things you can control.
"That's you," he said. "Put a product out there that's attractive and someone will eventually be attracted to you."
Goethie, Woodson and Jones may rise to a head coaching position one day, but one thing they'll never stop doing is coaching young men into great men—regardless of the color of their skin.