Orlando, Fla. - Former big-time NFL players rarely go back to their home communities and take on enormous tasks like rebuilding a high school football program and the culture of a school overall. Not many people are like the following individual, however.
Blessed with natural physical ability and the mindset to grind to play the game he loved, this NFL veteran is back at his alma mater to help as many people as he can. It’s a great ongoing story and one that needed to be told.
Kenard Lang, Head Coach Orlando (Fla.) Evans
As a Player: attended Evans and then went to the University of Miami and played defensive end. He was rewarded for his effort and talent by being taken by the Washington Redskins during the 1997 NFL Draft with the No. 17 selection. During a 10 year professional football career with the Redskins (1997-2001), Cleveland (2002-2005) and Devener (2006), Lang accumulated 50 career sacks and 449 total tackles.
This past spring was the beginning of year one for you at Evans, correct?
“Getting your mind right,” Coach Lang stated emphatically. “Getting your mind right with the expectation of the new Evans Football program. What they expect from themselves and what I expect from you.”
For a very long time, and I’ve been following Florida high school football for 30 years, kids in the area of Evans don’t necessarily go to Evans. What do you have to do to get kids to say yes to coming to Evans?
“You know, what you gotta do, honestly, you gotta win. Win is one. Also, two, you have to show what you have as a coaching staff as far as they are going to see they are going to learn from you.
“You know, we are not going to be a program that’s going to be like, hey, we are not going to teach you the correct technique, or teach you the fundamentals of the game. That’s one aspect along with the winning. Most importantly, just showing the kids that we care. We just not going to use you for a piece of meat. We are going to try to get you college eligible. Build you with character, get you to be a better person inside.
“My mindset is like this. I’m going to send no kid off to college being no turd. I just came from college and I know what they are looking for. What I’m looking for, yes sir, no sir. Just doing what somebody tells you (the high school player) to do, just yes sir and go do it, instead of having something to say back. You know what I mean?
“I’m running two weight lifting sessions. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. I have like 35 to 40 players come to each session. I’m thinking, man, if I have about 80 kids now, shoot, in a couple of years I’ll probably have a 100-and-something (players). I know it’s going to take time, but hey, they didn’t build Rome overnight.
Your roster has size. I can see that based on the players you brought here today. You have a safety, Mr. Williams, that everyone knows about. Give the people a player or two people may not know about that’s going to be good.
“Oh, we got a slot, TJ Massey, that’s one guy. We also have a wide receiver and free safety named Felix Barrington. We also have a tight end named Henry Claxite that used to play basketball. He does both, but he finally came out and played football this year. We are looking for big stuff from him. He’s going to be a big-time surprise for a lot of people. Also have an offensive lineman named Ziquavion Fegan. He’s a nice-sized kid with good feet that can run. We got Tyler Jones, who’s going to be playing middle linebacker for us.”
Are you guys 6A, 7A, 8A?
“Oh, we 8A.”
Who do you open up the season against?
“Kickoff Classic against (Orlando) Jones. The good thing about it though, they are one of the top teams in the area. So, you play them first game. You get to see where you stand, and what you need to correct and what you need to adjust before you even go into your first regular season game.
“You know, that’s how football is going to be anyway. You set up all your good challenging games in the beginning, so when you’re in district (competition), you’re already battle tested. So, let’s get battle tested a little bit before district, and roll from there. Good thing about it though, they ain’t going to back down from nothing.”
What kind of offense are you going to run schematically?
“Inside zone, we are going to run some power, some spread, but mostly a pro-style offense. And honestly, we will adjust to what we need to do week by week. We are not just one set offense.”
If you could only pick one strength, what would be the best position on your team?
“The offensive line. We have a 10th grader named Chrisdasson Saint-Jean, who has an offer from Maryland and South Florida. He’s like 6’6”, 310. We have the other boy named Nate Alexis, that’s 6’5”, probably about 255 now. Then we have another guard, he is probably about 6’2”, 275, 280.
“That’s why I said we are going to run the football. That’s our strength up front (with the offensive line).”
You’ve played football at the highest level. What do you see now in Orlando compared to when you were coming up?
“Um, if anything has changed...I would say we are getting a lot more total athletes. In the aspect of like, (when I was playing high school football), if you wanted to come to Orlando you might get a receiver or a quarterback. You didn’t worry about offensive linemen or defensive linemen because it wasn’t that big here in this area (Orlando). Now, in the last couple of years, you can come to Orlando and get every position. Recruiting wise, that's how high school football has probably changed.
“Now playing the game, it’s almost about the same. It’s not changed that much. You know, it’s still trendy. What one team does, that's what everybody else does. Everybody is going to follow the trend or whatever. Very few teams still stick to their guns.”
Also of note, Coach Lang is in sync with the Evans administration. That’s important to help build not only a high school football program, but build a strong community through the local high school. Hats off to Coach Lang for wanting to be directly involved with the Evans Football program and impact the lives of so many people. Our country needs more people that think and work like Coach Lang.