When Ryan David got the urge to return to the football field, he started knocking on doors. Well, he knocked on one door, anyway. But he got the response he was hoping for, a chance to coach. Two years later, he put his name forward for another coaching position, got the job and is now in his third year as an assistant football coach at Hiram.

“It was 2005, and I had been out of football for 10 or 11 years,” David said. “I really missed the game and decided I’d like to get into coaching.

“I drove out to Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, and everything was locked up. I knocked on a door, and Tim Mainello, the head football coach at the time, let me in. I knew they were looking for someone to work with the defensive backs. I handed him my resume, he looked at it and asked if I could come back Friday for an interview. I did, and on Monday he offered me the job.”

With that, the son of Tom — who owns and operates Tom David Motors in Jefferson — and Carole David — retired former high school teacher and later principal at Jefferson — was on his way to joining the host of other Ashtabula County natives now coaching football at the collegiate level. David, a 1991 Jefferson graduate, coached under Mainello for two seasons at NDCL..

In the fall of 2006, Bob Wolfe, who had spent three seasons (2001-03) as NDCL’s head coach, took the reins of the Hiram football program. David thought there might be an opportunity, but this time he didn’t knock; he rang.

“I didn’t really know Coach Wolfe,” David said. “I’d talked to him before, and we kind of hit it off. I gave him a call and asked him if he was looking for a defensive backs coach. He said he was. I had an interview, and he hired me.

“I will be forever indebted to Tim Mainello and Bob Wolfe,” David said. “They both took a chance with me, and it’s been a great experience.”

David holds a part-time position with the Terriers, and during the season, his coaching duties take up 30 hours a week. In addition, he is responsible for recruiting in Ashtabula County, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And, he works at Tom David Motors.

“It can be tough to balance it all, but I don’t think about it much,” he said. “When you see the kids you coach make progress, all the hours seem like nothing.. The biggest thing is when you see what a kid can accomplish; when you see him use the things you’ve taught him. I watch these guys mature right before my eyes.”

When David ponders how a coach should coach, he thinks back to his days at Jefferson, when he played for the well-traveled Joe Kearney, who is now guiding the football resurgence at Edgewood.

“The biggest influence for me was Joe Kearney,” David said. “He demands greatness from you, but he has one of the biggest hearts in the world. He treated us like sons. That’s what he taught me: demand excellence, but treat the players like sons. If you do that, you’ll get the most from your players.”

The more immediate task for David is to improve the skills of the players in the Terriers’ defensive backfield. The most difficult part of that job is teaching the players to backpedal correctly.

“The toughest thing is to get them to stay low when they backpedal,” he said. “It’s a tough thing to teach, but when they do it the right way, it helps them break on the ball.”

The Terriers are struggling on the gridiron this season. Winless in four games, they’re coming off a 70-7 loss to Wittenberg and have been outscored 191-44 on the season. From his vantage point, David doesn’t see any dispirited players in the defensive backfield.

“I’m very fortunate. Our defensive backs are probably the hardest-working group of football players I’ve ever been around,” David said. “All they want to do is get out there and play. Their motivation isn’t affected by the scoreboard. They just want to get better.”

Recruiting is a competitive business. It keeps David busy during the season, when he travels to watch prospects play. There are matters to attend to on the recruiting front all year long, but most of them can be handled by phone.

“You probably end up putting in a lot of hours recruiting the rest of year,” he said. “But a lot of it is stuff you can handle during the course of a day, and you don’t notice it so much.”

The recruiters can’t relax too much, however. There are a lot of schools vying for the available talent.

“There are just so many great schools in northeast Ohio,” David said. “And every one of them is eyeing the same kids.”

The lure of becoming a head coach isn’t turning David’s head, at least right now. But, in the future, who knows?

“If the right situation came along I might do it,” he said. “But I don’t want to go out and get a head coaching job just to say I am a head coach.”

David played his collegiate football at Thiel College in Greenville, Pa. He was offered a scholarship from Kent State, but eventually chose the Tomcats over the Golden Flashes.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said. “I talked to Coach Kearney, and he said Thiel was a good place. I listened to him. And it was a great school. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

It worked out well for both David and the Tomcats. David, a free safety, was a two-time Division III All-American and, after his senior season, he played in the National Coaches All-Star Game. Dave T.. Thomas Publications rated David the 18th-best safety entering the 1996 NFL draft.

For those thinking of participating in collegiate athletics, David said it’s a wonderful experience. The vital issue is wanting to play.

“You’ve got to be sure you want to play and put in the time,” he said. “It’s not easy — no sport is easy. If you’re not sure you want to play, if you’re hesitating, don’t do it.”

David did have an opportunity to workout with several NFL and Canadian Football League teams..

“It was pretty nerve wracking; there was a lot of pressure,” he said. “But it was interesting. I was on the field at Three Rivers Stadium — I wasn’t there 10 minutes — and Bill Cowher walked by. He looked just like he did on TV. It was awesome.”

David was away from football for a long time. But he’s back now and enjoying the experience.

“I love football, and I love working with the kids, both on and off the field,” he said.

Harris is a freelance writer from Ashtabula Township.

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