Posted: Feb 20, 2013
Perhaps not an unusual occurence for a high school coach except for the fact that it was during a National Football League awards dinner in New Orleans.
"The majority of the weekend was very surreal," said Specht, who was named the NFL's Don Shula High School Coach of the Year during the 2012 awards presentation.
"I’m not sure the entire thing has really settled in just yet," Specht added. "Don Shula was always one of the great coaches I liked to model my career after. He was always successful, but more importantly, he always carried himself with class and integrity. He represented the Miami Dolphins with the utmost character. The thought that my name was linked to his was very humbling."
The 1990 Earlham College graduate just finished his ninth season as the head football coach for St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has a career record of 87-26-0 to go with a pair of Division I state championships in 2005 and 2007.
"I believe our success is attributed to a number of things," Specht said. "The administration at St. Xavier has always given me the resources needed to support the program. The parents have given us the support we need to help develop their sons. The coaching staff has sacrificed many hours to help support the mission of the school in the development of the players. The players have supported one another, have loved one another to the point that individual success has always taken a back seat to the success of the team."
"I think this support is the key to success in any field or endeavor," he continued. "And by the way, we have had some pretty special talent come through these doors."
One of those talented players is Seattle Seahawks defensive end Greg Scruggs, who nominated Specht for the award. Another former player who shared the podium at the same event earlier this month was Luke Kuechly. He was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after his first season as a linebacker with the Carolina Panthers.
"I’ve been asked what the highlight of the trip was for me and I immediately referred to the opportunity to eat lunch on Friday with Greg and on Saturday with Luke," Specht said. "As a coach, the year-end bonuses are always the opportunity to sit with former players and pay witness to the great things they are accomplishing with their lives."
"The time spent with both Greg and Luke was priceless," Specht added. "The fact that Greg cared enough about his experience to nominate one of his coaches validates what we try to do as teachers and coaches. I am very honored by Greg’s nomination but more so, feel very blessed to have played a small role in his life."
An English Literature major at Earlham, Specht played linebacker for the Quakers from 1985-89 and was a member of the baseball program for three seasons.
"Without question the years spent in Richmond and at Earlham College had a profound impact on my career," he said. "Earlham College provided an academic challenge every day. It gave me the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and really forced me to examine who I was and who I wanted to be on a daily basis. I believe this is one of the great challenges Earlham offers to every student. I also learned how to ask thoughtful questions as well as how to voice my opinion without arrogance. That’s the beauty of the Earlham education. People are respected for who they are and are encouraged to challenge and be challenged."
As a member of the Earlham football squad, Specht was named the Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1989. He also earned an All-Collegiate Athletic Conference honor in baseball as a junior.
"Athletically, I was blessed to have played for Frank Carr in football and Doug Welsh in baseball," Specht said. "My coaching style has taken on different traits from all of the coaches for which I’ve ever played. Coach Carr cared deeply about his players and that always impacted me. I still can hear his voice ringing in my ears as he would yell, “It’s a great day to be alive,” at the beginning of every practice. I’ve taken that to heart and it has become a staple in everything we do."
Specht began his coaching career as an assistant at Lakota High school in 1990. In 1993, he moved to his high school alma mater when he became an assistant at St. Xavier. He served as the Bombers defensive coordinator from 1997-2003 before taking charge of the program the following season. He and his wife, Becky, have three children, Bailey, Hayden and Cameron. In addition to his coaching duties, Specht serves as the Assistant Principal for Juniors and Seniors.