By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Two Concord University football standouts have traded in their jerseys for coaches’ shirts, remaining in Athens to launch their coaching careers.
Zack Grossi, the Mountain Lions’ record-setting quarterback, will be working with the tight ends this season. Former free safety Kevin Elliott will be working with the defensive backs corps with which he is quite familiar.
“We’re very fortunate to add two new players to our coaching staff,” said Concord head coach Garin Justice. “I couldn’t be more excited about those two.”
Grossi coached the tight ends in spring ball through an internship in one of his classes, “and did an excellent job,” Justice said. “That’s been a growing experience for Zack.”
“Kevin’s been a studious guy, a conscientious guy, a guy that’s done everything right, since day one,” the head coach said.
“Now, hopefully, he can take those study habits (and) those work habits and really impress it upon our DBs (defensive backs). I know DBs sometimes can be a rambunctious group. So if he can give them that drive, the motivation, the focus that Kevin has, then we have something special back there.”
Justice is aware of the delicate dynamics involving brand-new coaches — and former athletes returning to coach in a program for which they have played.
“I think the biggest thing those guys have got to do is to realize that they’re going to make mistakes, they’re not going to be perfect. They’re still young as a coach,” Justice said.
“That, and they’ve got to separate those relationships (with former teammates). They can’t hang out with them on Saturday night, now. They’ve got to separate those friendships until the season’s over with, and some of those guys that they’re friends with will maybe graduate.”
“I think those are some of the challenges that are ahead for those guys, but so far they’ve been very mature about it.”
“Those are two mature guys. Kevin was mature when he was 12,” he said with a laugh. “Zack is a guy that it probably took him until he was 20 or 21 until he started to mature. But they’re both mature guys and guys that are very driven and focused on becoming a coach and making that their profession.”
The assistant coaches are a valuable part of the CU football program, according to their boss.
“It makes my job a lot easier,” Justice said.
Paul Price wears many hats as the team’s assistant head coach, defensive coordinator, inside linebackers coach and academic coordinator. He began coaching in the West Virginia Conference in 1989.
With many of the schools from that conference now joining Concord in the new Mountain East Conference, Justice said, “He’s been in this conference longer than any (other) coach in the conference. That experience is invaluable.”
Dustin Ward is “an excellent offensive coordinator,” Justice said. “Every time it feels like we’re about to have some offensive success, it seems like something happens — like the Grossi car crash (that ended his career last fall), something like that.”
“But I have complete faith in him, complete faith that we’re going to do an excellent job moving the football this year.”
John Pennington is a “jack of all trades” on the staff, his head coach said. “He does our weight room, special teams, wide receivers. He does a lot. He’s a trusted friend that I know will get the job done.”
Pat Dawson is known as “kind of the comedian, I guess, on the staff,” Justice said. “(He) probably gets his guys to play harder than any other guy on the field. And I think that’s the mark of a great coach, is a coach who can get his guys to play hard, week in and week out. And no one does a better job of that than Pat.”
Returning are two graduate assistants from 2012, Colin Doran and Joe Greenway.
“Joe’s another former player who had a great career here,” Justice said of the 2011 conference defensive player of the year, and an honorable mention All-America pick. “He’s coaching outside linebackers.”
“Colin is a very conscientious, smart guy who’s helping out with the running backs. He did a nice job last year, helping Calvinaugh Jones have the season he had.”
Jones generated 853 yards on offense, averaging 4.3 yards per carry in his first collegiate season in 2012.
Doran, an honor student at DePauw University, played wide receiver for the Division III school in Indiana.
Steve Adams has left Concord for another coaching job, Justice said, “but when you pick up two guys like Zack and Kevin, it helps out a lot.”
— Contact Tom Bone at