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Matthew Morris Matthew Morris BVM Sports Journalist
Jeremy Maclin back for Year 2 as Kirkwood head football coach

Jeremy Maclin back for Year 2 as Kirkwood head football coach

KIRKWOOD, Mo. (BVM) – Since taking over as the head coach of the Kirkwood High School varsity football team, Jeremy Maclin has had plenty of moments that remind him of why he loves what he does. They came pretty soon after the Kirkwood graduate accepted the position in February of 2021. 

That spring, Maclin was talking to a baseball player at Kirkwood about joining the football team. Not sure about the opportunity, the high schooler agreed to come out for summer training. Within days he and his family were asking Coach Maclin how the young man could continue with football beyond high school. 

This year, that same kid is a starter on the team with the chance to play at the collegiate level. But he also has friends, confidence and can look Maclin in the eye.

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Jeremy Maclin started as an assistant coach at Kirkwood High School. (Credit: Marianthe Meyer)

“A kid now finally being able to look you in the eyes,” Maclin said. “A kid being confident. A kid having friends. A kid joking, smiling, being sure of himself now and just really blossoming into his true self. For me, that’s been the most fulfilling thing in coaching.”

Maclin is entering his second year as the head coach of the Pioneers. In his first season as head coach, after being an assistant at Kirkwood for two years, Maclin led the Pioneers to a 7-3 record and a playoff berth. In year two, the team is looking to build upon that foundation. 

“We know right now we’re nowhere near a finished product, we know it’s a long season, our big thing is to be ahead of where we were last year and I think we’re at that point,” Maclin said. “But I think that’s also credited to some of the older guys that we have taking some young guys, taking some first year guys underneath their wings and just showing them the way.” 

The Pioneers’ senior class is strong this year, led by three-star running back Deion Brown who played through a fractured left arm last season. Brown is healthy now and leading a hungry group of Kirkwood seniors. 

“We got a really, really good senior class,” Maclin said. 

Kirkwood wants a deep run into the playoffs and another win in the Turkey Day Game on Thanksgiving, but Maclin is also focused on making the whole experience one his players won’t forget. 

“I want to create an experience that is very enjoyable to them,” Maclin said. “The way we set things up, we try to involve a lot of different people and we try to involve a lot of different players. For us it’s all about how can we help them grow and that’s on and off the football field.”

Jeremy Maclin Kirkwood High School football Maclin Kirkwood High School Football
Jeremy Maclin (18) was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. (Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Off the field is just as important as on the field to Maclin. One of the reasons he got into coaching after his time in the NFL was because he wanted to give back to the community that played a part in turning him into the man he is today. 

That didn’t necessarily mean being a high school football coach, but when Maclin retired from the NFL, he wasn’t done with football. 

After a nine-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, Maclin wasn’t ready to retire. However, an injury to his hamstring that was basically causing the muscle to deteriorate was showing no signs of improvement even after Maclin spent the entire 2018 season rehabbing. He was also expecting the birth of his first daughter and it was becoming apparent it was time to hang up his football cleats. But it wasn’t the way Maclin wanted to go out. 

“Because I didn’t go out on my own terms, I was in a rough spot,” Maclin said. “For the first time, I wasn’t going to be playing football and I’ve been playing football since I was 9 years old so I was trying to figure out what the next step for me was.”

Maclin had a cousin who was playing for Kirkwood at the time and the opportunity to coach him arose. It was the perfect transition for Maclin who always planned on heading home after his pro career and still had a passion for football. 

The Pro Bowl wide receiver called up Farrell Shelton, the Pioneers head coach at the time, and joined the Kirkwood football team as an assistant coach. Shortly after, it was announced that Shelton was retiring after the 2020 season and Maclin took advantage of the opportunity.

“I knew in some capacity, I didn’t know what, that I would come back to St. Louis and give back to the community that helped me become the man that I am,” Maclin said. “I just didn’t know at what capacity and then football was still burning inside of me. You take football, you take the life lessons, you put them together, you get a high school football coach.”

It was the perfect situation. Maclin was home and he was doing his part to give back. And for his players, they had someone that they could relate to on so many different levels. 

“Everybody knows my heart,” Maclin said. “They know my heart’s in Kirkwood. A lot of those kids walk the same halls and grew up in the same place that I grew up in and I’m just here trying to help.”

Jeremy Maclin Kirkwood High School football Maclin Kirkwood High School Football
Jeremy Maclin (9) was a two-time consensus All-American while at Mizzou. (Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

Helping is what Maclin and his coaching staff do best. On the field, he has surrounded himself with experienced coaches that give the Pioneers a lot of knowledge and veteran leadership on the sidelines. Maclin leans on them and on his own experiences to help his team. 

It never hurts to have played for coaches like Andy Reid, Gary Pinkel, David Culley, Duce Staley, John Harbaugh and Doug Pederson, just to name a few. Whether it was with Mizzou, the Eagles, Chiefs or Ravens all these coaches had an effect on Maclin and have helped him as he develops his own coaching style. 

“I’ve had a lot of great people, a lot of great coaches, coaches now that I can call mentors and friends,” Maclin said. “I mean the list goes on and on from Coach Pinkel at Mizzou and Coach Reid and Duce Staley and even Farrell and David Culley. I’ve just been blessed to be around a lot of good people.” 

Off the field, Maclin is trying to do his part to make sure these student athletes become well-rounded human beings. The wins and losses, x’s and o’s are all important but Maclin wants his players to achieve well beyond the football field.  

“The thing that we try to do at Kirkwood is, yes football is important and I am a football coach,” Maclin said. “But I’m there to help these kids grow, mature, develop and achieve some of the things they want to achieve in life and believe it or not, way more times than not, a lot of that is not football… Even if I may play a small part in that I know that we did something right.”

Doing it through football is just the way Maclin has found for himself. If he wasn’t a coach, he still would be affecting change in some way. But Kirkwood is his home and football is his passion. It’s fitting that Maclin has found a place on the sidelines underneath those Friday night lights. 

The lights help to illuminate the expressions of joy and excitement that he sees on each of his players’ faces, reminding him what is so special about high school football. It’s all about the players to Maclin and giving them an experience that they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives.

“I tell my kids all the time that I still remember everything that happened in high school,” Maclin said. “I was able to go to college and go to the pros so if that still means something to me I can only imagine what it means to people who may never put on another football helmet again. It is a very, very special thing.”

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