By Zack Huffman
It has been a while since Maurice Tyler has been a head football coach in the Southern Crescent. Although his coaching career has taken him to almost every level of competition imaginable, at some point, he hopes to return to Clayton County.
In the meantime, the former North Clayton and Stockbridge head coach is busy in his first year as head coach for the Atlanta Xplosion (6-1), an all-women's full-contact football team, as it completes their regular season this Saturday when the team travels to Florida to face the Orlando Mayhem.
The Xplosion, whose sole loss this season came at the hands of defending national champions the Dallas Diamonds, competes within the Independent Women's Football League, which is a full-contact football league with 41 teams across North America.
When Tyler first met his new squad he was pleasantly surprised to see how many players showed up in nice business suits, having come from high-paying jobs or their own businesses in some cases.
"Most of them are very successful business people. You have ladies that come out and work a full time job all day long, then come out and work three more hours at night," he said.
When asked in light of his support of a women's football league whether he would refer to himself as a feminist, he declined to take a political stance.
"No, I call myself a football coach. When I took the job as head coach, I told the ladies 'this is not about you being ladies, this is not about me adding to my resume, this is about what I like doing and that's coaching."
In any case, Tyler was quick to defend the league as a valuable outlet for female athletes.
"It's good quality football, it's not the powder puff league. Women are athletic just like men are," he said. "When people actually see the games, they realize that the competitive level is of good quality. It's good quality family entertainment."
This season the Xplosion played every one of its home games at James R. Hallford stadium at Clarkston High School in Decatur. According to Tyler, home games have generally drawn crowds of over 1000 spectators, with proceeds being donated to the host school.
"It's a program that will not only enhance the women, it's a program that will give back to the community," said Tyler. "The youth of our society looks up to athletes as role models. When that athlete is not just looking out for themselves, it sends a good message."
After coaching the North Clayton middle school program from 1988-1989, Tyler rose to his first high school head coaching position when he assumed the command of the North Clayton Eagles in 1990.
The Eagles had just come off a tough 0-10 season. After struggling through a pair of 1-9 seasons, Tyler took the Eagles 8-3 in 1992.
"In two years we were in the playoffs," he said.
With Tyler at the helm, the 1993 Eagles went 11-1, with a perfect regular season record and a win against Cedar Grove to claim the school's first region championship since 1963, before losing to East Hall in the first round of the state playoffs.
Following that season, Tyler passed the torch at North Clayton to Don Shockley, while he went on to coach at Cross Keys for two years, before returning to the Southern Crescent, when he replaced Mike Creasman at Stockbridge High School.
Tyler went 3-7 and 1-9 before leaving Stockbridge.
Outside of his high school career, Tyler also spent time coaching Illinois State University football, but his experiences reinforced his love of high school sports.
According to Tyler, what he missed the most was being able to mold athletes into responsible members of the community along with building their physical acumen.
"As a high school coach, it should be an aspiration to build the individual," he said. "I got out of college coaching, because as I was recruiting, I saw a lot of high school coaches weren't really developing the academic side of the athlete."
Tyler, who also currently serves as an assistant coach at Cedar Grove would love to return to head coaching high school football in Clayton so he can get back to impacting the lives of young athletes.
"I was blessed have played at every level," he said. "I've lived the life of a player and I came through hard times growing up, but the person who influenced me the most was my high school and college coaches."