Cox's Corner: First Year In Coaching A Learning Experience For Charlton
BRIDGEWATER, Va. – After more than a decade of playing football at the highest levels, Ike Charlton came to Bridgewater College for his first season as an assistant coach armed with a vast array of football knowledge.
When Bridgewater head coach Mike Clark told Charlton he needed someone to coach the tight ends, the former Virginia Tech Hokie and NFL defensive back realized that most of his football knowledge didn’t relate to that position.
“I played against tight ends and covered them, but that’s about it,” Charlton said. “When I hear tight end, I think offensive line and I really didn’t know a great deal about blocking techniques, terminology at that position, things like that.”
“We asked Ike to step out of his comfort zone and move to the offensive side of the football and that’s a tough transition,” Clark said. “For a first-year coach, that’s difficult, but getting into coaching in that manner might be the best perspective. Ike’s done a good job for us and hopefully he’s had a good experience.”
Charlton joined the Bridgewater staff as part of the NFL Players Association coaching internship program and the experience has offered a rewarding start to what he hopes will be a long career in the profession.
“Coach Clark and all the coaches on staff have been great to work with and the College has been good to me,” Charlton said. “Coach Lemn helped me a lot with coaching the blocking part of the position and working on the offensive side of the ball has been a good experience. I don’t want to be labeled as a position coach. I want to be known as a football coach. Seeing the game from the offensive side of the football is different, but it’s been very beneficial.”
There was a time when Charlton played on the offensive side of the ball. During his high school days in Florida, he played some at wide receiver before moving to quarterback as a junior.
“When you’re a pretty good athlete growing up in Florida, you’re probably going to play both ways. I always played wide receiver and defensive back until my junior year when my coach moved me to quarterback,” Charlton said. “I always like playing defense because I liked the contact.”
Charlton then landed at Virginia Tech where he became an all-conference performer during Tech’s rise to national prominence. Charlton played on the 1999 Hokies squad that finished undefeated in the regular season and played for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl, a game they lost to Florida State.
Charlton was drafted in the second round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. After two years in Seattle he had NFL stints with Jacksonville, the N.Y. Giants, Oakland and New England before spending several seasons in the Canadian Football League – most of those with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
With his playing days in the rearview mirror, coaching was a logical next step for Charlton. The NFLPA coaching internship program helped him get a foot in the door.
“Coaching is something I have always wanted to do,” Charlton said. “It’s a way to stay in the game. It’s a way to stay involved with something I love to do.”
While coaching tight ends was a completely new experience, it turned out to be a good fit.
“I got lucky,” Charlton admitted. “As a tight ends coach you have a small group of guys to work with. I had a veteran group – two seniors, a junior and a sophomore – and they were a talented group. They listened to me. They know I played at Virginia Tech and in the NFL and I think that made it a little easier for me to get their ear. I think they realized that I knew football."
“We brought the tight end position back to life here at Bridgewater and I feel good about that. I feel good that maybe I had a positive impact on those guys. They had a productive season and they will have a good story to tell down the road when they are finished playing.”
Tight ends Michael Colee and Cord Keating have combined for 50 receptions and more than 600 yards this season. Colee leads the team with 27 catches and Keating is third on the roster with 23.
“In a business of bottom lines, that’s been a productive position for us this season,” said Clark. “In college football today, there probably are very few teams that have two tight ends among their top three receivers.”
With his first season as a coach nearly complete, Charlton is certain that a career in coaching is in his future. He is quick to mention, however, there is still work to be done at Bridgewater.
“We’ve still got a game left,” he said. “We’ve still got some business to take care of. We want to go to Catholic and close out the year with a win. When the year started we wanted to take Bridgewater College back to the playoffs. We let a game or two slip away and that kept us from getting there, but it's been a good season. We didn't win a championship this season, but I believe the program is close to returning to that level."
As for his future, Charlton would like to stay involved in the college game.
“Guys in college are hungry. They want to learn and they want to get better. I want to be a coach and a mentor for those guys,” Charlton said.
“I’ve been around a lot of great coaches during my playing career,” he added. “I’ve tried to take the best traits from those best coaches and I’ve tried to use them now that I am in that position. I have learned so much this season about all aspects of the program, both on the field and off the field. There are things I have learned here at Bridgewater this season that have definitely made me a better coach.”