Coach Antaiwn Mack huddles up the River Rats following a grueling practice on a warm day on the turf at Huron High School. The first-year head coach is talking about effort, preparation and discipline – both on and off the field.
He has the team’s full attention. He has that kind of personality and presence that demands you listen. Whether he has the personality and presence to demand the team’s respect remains to be seen – that will be seen on the field and eventually on the scoreboard.
But right now, one week into practice, Huron football head coach Antaiwn Mack is the center of attention. All of the responsibility of turning this program around and winning football games rests on his big, loud, assertive and confident shoulders – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The reason I came back home was to make a difference,” said Mack, who grew up in Ypsilanti and played at Willow Run High School (Class of 2001). “I want to take a program that has been struggling and try to touch as many lives as possible and make a positive difference in young men’s lives. I want to get this program to the next level and guide them in a positive direction so they can be successful in football and in life.”
Mack played college football at three different universities. He was a co-defensive coordinator at Ypsilanti High in 2014 and helped lead the Grizzlies into the playoffs and several players off that team went to play D-1 college football. He’s also helped out the program at Ferris State with recruiting.
“Some people would be scared to take on this challenge but I feel blessed to be here,” he says. “I’m just thankful to the Ann Arbor community and the people here at Huron for this opportunity. I’ve always been a student of the game and I’m just happy to be back in the game with these young men.”
The River Rats have gone the last four seasons without a victory – they are on a 30-game losing streak dating to their last victory on Oct. 3, 2014 against Skyline. Turning a program like Huron around starts more in the head then with the feet, arms and legs. There is a mental hurdle that needs to be cleared before you can start running, passing, scoring and winning.
“I can already see their mentality starting to change,” Mack says. “We have a great coaching staff here and that’s very important. The kids aren’t going to have an off day so the kids are going to have to accept the challenge and so far they have.
“Our motto is ‘chip the paint.’ And we are going to get after it. There are guys here who can play at the next level and we are going to help them get there so they can get that education that’s so important.”
Huron Athletic Director Tony Whiren describes his new football coach as “motivated,” “driven,” and “in it for the right reasons (helping the kids).”“Coach Mack comes with high energy, the kids respect him and he has had plenty of good mentoring,” Whiren says. “He has great connections to continue to work with as he grows and develops as a coach and a professional. Coach and his staff have been hard at work all summer, as he would say ‘chipping at the paint.’ We have put a very strong staff together, we’re young and everyone is getting to know everyone still.”
Mack is “absolutely not happy” with where the team is at this point of the season.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he says. “We want them to play hard, be confident and get after it. We are going to hold kids accountable. We aren’t there yet but we will get there.”
He certainly has his player’s attention.
“He’s working hard, pushing the pace to try and make us better,” said Huron senior Jaylin Matthews, one of the team leaders for the River Rats. “He’s trying to get the team to play together.”