TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- If Miami University of Ohio is known as the "Cradle of Coaches," then Marshall High could be called the "Cradle of Equipment Managers."
At one point, three Marshall grads were working in that capacity in the NFL, although the most senior of the trio was hired last week at Florida State University. Darin Kerns, MHS Class of 1984, worked in the NFL for 18 years -- starting with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was the team's "employee of the year" in 1992, then for 11 years at Tampa Bay.
"I feel fortunate to have worked under a [Missouri Football Coaches Association] Hall of Fame coach in Coach [Cecil] Naylor in high school, a future Hall of Fame coach in Tony Dungy while in Tampa and now the 'winningest' coach in the history of college football and Hall of Fame coach in Coach [Bobby] Bowden," Kerns noted in an e-mail to The Marshall Democrat-News. "All three men are not only recognized as some of the best coaches in their respective leagues, but also exceptional men with integrity and class who I am very proud to be associated with."
Kerns spent the last year at the University of Minnesota, where he introduced the program to a cutting edge technology in helmets: Riddell's Head Impact Technology System. Using sensors inside the helmet, all contact is automatically recorded by computer and used to assess potential concussive effects of hits.
The Gophers were the ninth college program to adopt the system; so far, no NFL teams are using it.
Kerns isn't Marshall's first connection to Florida State. Clay Stapleton, a current Marshall resident who was head football coach (1958-67) and Athletic Director at Iowa State, was the AD in Tallahassee in 1971-72. Bowden credits Stapleton with upgrading the schedule to help the program achieve national prominence after the coach arrived in 1976.
Two other former Owls are currently on NFL staffs: Brad Berlin (Class of 1985) with the Washington Redskins and Gus Granneman (1988) with the New York Jets.
A protégé of Kerns at Tampa Bay, Mark Meschede (1987), is the Clubhouse Manager with the Clearwater Threshers, the Philadelphia Phillies' Class A affiliate.