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I love hearing stories about the life-changing influence a coach has had on a former player. Even more, I love hearing how one coach inspires another person to become a coach, who then influences even more people. Here is one of those from the Pete Carroll days at USC.
I met Peter "Boomer" Roepke at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Tennessee back in January of this year. He is the wide receivers coach at Pasadena City College. As we got to talking about the coaching profession, and his journey, I was very intrigued. He has a path unlike many.
A four-time All-American in swimming, and also an All-State punter at Reno High School (Nev.), Roepke accepted a college scholarship to USC for swimming. Eventually, he quit swimming and tried to walk on for Pete Carroll, but didn't make the team after open tryouts.
The enthusiasm and energy of the head football coach inspired this young man in such a powerful way that he stuck around for every single practice. He loved the Trojans, he loved watching coach Carroll, and he loved learning more about football through watching practice.
Then one afternoon, coach Carroll approached him. "Boomer, I've seen you on the sideline at every practice since the beginning of camp, you really are excited to be a Trojan, aren't you?" Boomer told Carroll that he had never wanted to be a part of a program like he had wanted to be a part of the USC Trojans football team, and that watching practice was almost as exciting as being on the field.
Carroll's response, "We've had a couple injuries during camp and we need guys that are fired up to play every day, are you interested in joining us again?" He put his arm around him and said "Welcome back!" With that, another motivating coach, defensive coordinator Rocky Seto brought him on as a cornerback. Carroll and his staff left to the Seahawks, but Boomer stuck around and eventually became a starter on some special teams, and subbing in during his senior year at safety and slot vs. Colorado.
After completing his eligibility as a swimmer and football player at USC in 2011, he started helping in the coaching realm as a volunteer intern in the USC football office. Then, during the Ed Orgeron and Lane Kiffin tenures, he was asked to help during USC's summer skill camps, leading defensive back drills.
"It was a great opportunity to gain on-the-field experience but importantly to inspire the camp attendants in their football journey, some of whom soon became perspective recruits for the USC football program," Boomer reported.
Coach Boomer went on to explain, "The reason I got into coaching was because of the impact coach Pete Carroll and coach Rocky Seto had on me. I had no idea that a coach could be so inspirational in someone's life. Coach Carroll had an open door policy where he was always willing to talk. Even as a walk-on, I would go into coach Carroll's office and talk. A lot of the time, it wasn't even about football. He would ask about my family, my classes, how I was enjoying my time with the team. It just meant so much to me that he truly cared about me and my interests."
"Coaching is a very time-consuming and emotionally-draining profession, but to have a head coach who was genuine and wanted the best for me, meant so much more than playing football at USC. Because of that, I am always open to talk with our players at Pasadena City College. It doesn't have to be about football."
Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.