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High-school football: Ginn beats cancer odds to coach again

By 

Bill Rabinowitz

The Columbus Dispatch

Friday July 19, 2013 4:48 AM

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Lisa D
eJONG |
The Plain Dealer

“God has blessed me to be here,” said Ted Ginn Sr., center, the football coach at Cleveland Glenville High School.

Ted Ginn Sr. didn’t know how stacked the odds were against him surviving. Only after he had
beaten pancreatic cancer did the Glenville High School football coach learn that 19 out of 20 don’t
.

“They never told me until it was all over,” Ginn said.

Now the coach whose Cleveland school has been a pipeline to Ohio State and so many other college
football programs is poised to get back on the sidelines when preseason practice starts.

Ginn, 57, still doesn’t have the energy and endurance he had before he was diagnosed last
August. But he is getting stronger physically. His mental resolve has never been greater.

“I’m thankful to be alive and more determined than I ever have been in my life,” he said. “God
has blessed me to be here.”

Ginn has always believed that his mission is far greater than winning football games. He takes
it as almost an affront when the focus of conversation is about championships.

“It’s about winning kids, winning people,” Ginn said. “I say that I win all the time. I’ve never
lost. How do you lose people? How do you lose kids? Every time I graduate a kid, I’m winning. Every
time I get a kid in college, I’m winning.”

Ohio State right guard Marcus Hall is one of those kids. Hall was a basketball player in eighth
grade when Ginn implored him to play football. Hall grew to revere Ginn. He said that when a
teammate’s parent died, Ginn had the player stay at the coach’s house for a while.

“We all want to win, but where we come from on the east side of Cleveland, winning kind of takes
a back seat because the guys around there have so many other problems,” Hall said.

“He’s an automatic father figure before he’s even a football coach. There’s so much he has to
deal with even before he coaches football.

“He cares about individual kids so much, it’s crazy. He’ll make himself sick caring about one
kid when there are 200 other ones.”

But it all almost ended last year just before Glenville’s season started. Ginn was being treated
for a hernia when his blood sugar levels kept dropping. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a rare
form of pancreatic cancer. He endured surgeries and infections and fought high blood pressure.

“I had everything you could imagine,” Ginn said.

In November, Ginn said, he was put on life support for a week.

“I was living on a machine,” he said. “I didn’t even know that until they told me in January or
February.”

But after part of his pancreas was removed, Ginn slowly improved. He was even able to go to the
Super Bowl to watch his son, Ted Jr., play for the San Francisco 49ers.

Ginn is thankful for the waves of support he got from his family and friends, including former
players and college coaches. He said that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Brady Hoke
were among those who called.

Most of all, he credits God.

“I was sick,” he said. “What gets you through is your faith and love of God and love of people
and (knowing) not to be arrogant and selfish. Because there’s nothing you can do but wait and lean
on the Lord and think about your life and think about your purpose in life. If I didn’t have a
purpose, I’d be dead.”

Now he can’t wait to get back to his calling — using coaching as a platform to transform young
men’s lives.

“When I was sick, I didn’t really know if I could make it,” he said. “As I got better, I
(realized) this is what I was put on this earth for. I’m here to do God’s work.”

The man who has spent his life trying to help young men beat the odds did so himself.

“Coach Ginn is a special guy,” Hall said. “If I had to pick one person in my life to beat that
(cancer), I would probably have to say him.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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