The UC Bearcats are likely to be the only team in college football next year with a former coach in the starting lineup.
When fifth-year senior cornerback Adrian Witty suffered a significant groin injury in the season opener last year, it appeared his career was over.
“I tore it up pretty bad,” said Witty. “I thought I was going to be able to come back, but things didn’t go the way I wanted.”
So to remain part of the team, Witty became an unofficial member of the coaching staff.
“He knows so much about football,” said head coach Tommy Tuberville. “He’s going to make a great coach if he ever wants to do that. Last year he ran some drills for us. I think he learned a lot from standing and watching guys, teaching them, telling them what to do, and watching film with them. He traveled with us, went to every game, and was like another set of eyes for us.”
As it turned out, Witty’s injury was not career-ending. He’s been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after suffering separate season-ending injuries in 2010 and 2014.
“He went from playing, to coaching for a year, and now he’s back to playing,” said Tuberville. “He’s seen all sides of it.”
“God blessed me with another season,” said Witty.
The speedy Floridian is Cincinnati’s most experienced defensive back, having played cornerback, safety, and nickel in 41 career games. Now he has the added knowledge from having spent a season on the coaching staff.
“He learned a lot being on the sidelines and being in the meeting rooms as a coach,” said co-defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale. “To have him back is literally to have a coach on the field for me. He can definitely control his side of the field, get the calls in, and make adjustments. I love having him back and really appreciate his leadership. He’s going to do a great job for us.”
“It helped me see things from a coach’s view,” said Witty. “They consistently stressed the same things over and over. Now that I’m back on the field, I understand what they see.”
Adrian has been successful on and off the field at Cincinnati. He’s already earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is working toward a master’s degree in health education.
“He was elected one of our team captains last week and it was an obvious choice,” said Tuberville.
“He’s a good mentor on and off the field,” said Clinkscale. “He does a great job in the classroom. You couldn’t ask for a better son, a better player, or a better person.”
“Being named a captain means a lot,” said Witty. “It means the guys believe in me and the coaches believe in me and I’m going to live up to that. I have no problem being a leader. I want guys to follow me and look up to me. That’s just who I am.”
And the former coach is looking forward to playing again.
“I love these guys,” said Witty. “When you’re on the field you want to play for each other, battle for each other, bleed for each other, and do whatever you have to do in order to win.”
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