Scout.com four-star Sidell will play defensive end with a tenuous verbal commitment to continue that play at the University of Florida.
Phelon has a solid commitment to play further south in the Sunshine State. Coral Gables to be exact. The University of Miami is the future home for this Scout.com four-star defensive back.
Both coaches spoke with us about being dads. We talked about the pride they have in coaching their sons, what they've achieved and the path they took to get there.
Coach Corley grew up in Chicago and shared, "I have a sister that teaches biology at the University of Illinois and another sister that is in medical school at the University of Illinois. I also have a brother that is (pause), well, he's just having a good time (laughing)."
"When I was a kid, we didn't have organized youth leagues. I wasn't able to play football until I got into high school, but then I played all four years. I played offensive tackle and guard."
"My high school Coach, Ronnie Williams, always told us "the cream always rises to the top." It doesn't matter what you're doing in life. The cream always rises to the top."
"Coach Williams worked out with us side-by-side and was on the field with us going through drills. Even now, in his advanced age, he's still doing that."
"I went on to play at Southern University."
"I joined the military and played in the first European professional league in Frankfort, Germany. The military slimmed me down, and I played Sidell's position, defensive end."
"When I got out of the service, I played regional semi-pro ball around the country. When I was 29, I met Sidell's mom. I settled down in Mobile, Alabama."
"I loved playing football and that's why I'm still in coaching."
We asked Coach Corley when Sidell started playing football and he stated, "He tried it at seven, but he liked soccer and basketball better. At about eight or nine years old, Michael McNeil's father convinced him to play football. Everyone wonders how Michael and Sidell became so close. Well, that was it back then."
"Sidell was a very good basketball player. They were AAU champs when he was 11, 12, and 13, but then he just got so big."
We asked Coach Corley about motivating and developing Sidell's talent.
"He told me one time that he wanted to be the best defensive end in the state, and I got on him pretty hard that he couldn't just want to be the best in the state. He needed to want to be the best in the country. It was just a motivational thing a father would do, and it worked. He started going to specialty work-outs and camps. His size and his talent got bigger, and he just blossomed."
"Sidell works hard, but there is no doubt that his talent is God-given. His speed is unbelievable, and you can't buy 6-4 in the grocery store."
What does it take to keep a highly talented 17 year old's feet firmly on the ground and Corley replied, "Well, Sidell is just humble. His grandmother (Corley's mother in Chicago) kept him humble. She got sick about five years ago with cancer, and he always spent a lot of time with her. She would tell him to appreciate things because it could all be gone tomorrow. She was his best friend."
We asked coach Corley about the important days ahead and the impact of the loss of Sidell's grandmother.
"It's going to be hard for him," he said. "When he graduates, it will be a tough day. She wanted to be there to see him graduate. She fought really hard to be there for him."
We switched gears and asked about recruiting, the downside.
"Sidell started receiving about 150 text messages a week," Corley said. "Next thing I knew, he received a bill for $450. I had to get him unlimited text messages after that."
"Sidell is not allowed a phone when he's in school and only talks to coaches on Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. during the school year."
We asked the strangest thing that has happened to them in the recruiting process thus far.
"That offer from the University of Oregon was kind of unusual," he said.
There's always a downside of recruiting, but what about the good side?
"Sidell has made a lot of friends. He knows he hurt a lot of feelings when he committed to Florida, but he was doing what he thought was best," Corley said.
With high school coaching responsibilities on Friday nights the task of making a college football game on Saturday is not easy.
"Well, Coach Savarese has us preparing on the weekend for the next week," Corley said. "It's going to be a challenge, but I will try and see him as often as possible. My wife will be there each week."
We know it's difficult for parents to see their children move away to college. We asked coach Corley how he will feel when that young man walks out the door.
"Well, I'm going to miss my best friend," he said. "I was a single parent for seven years. We played basketball together, and we would stay up playing Playstation till all hours of the night. When I get home every night, there's Sidell and Michael McNeil sitting there waiting to tell me what happened during the day. They usually talk to me until around 10 o'clock every night. (Coach Corley was driving home from a conference while were speaking.) In fact, I would imagine they are sitting at home waiting for me to get there right now."
To end our conversation, I wanted to ask the question of who wins the Playstation battles?
"He won a couple of times the other night, but I hold the record, of course," he said.
Coach Tony Jones grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and shared, "I played little league football, but it wasn't the same as it is now. They have size and weight classifications, but we had community classifications instead. You might have big and little kids playing together or against each other."
"I played wide receiver and defensive back, just like Phelon, at Ensley High School. I graduated in 1970, and then went on to Tennessee State where I got my Engineering degree. Back when I started playing in high school, there were only five black players. It was very difficult times in the sixties in Birmingham, but I don't have any hard feelings or grudges about that. I get along with everyone."
"Ten years later, my baby brother, Wendell Jones, was the starting quarterback at Ensley and then another ten years later, he was the head coach at Ensley."
"My mom and dad were educators. My father was a principal. He retired from Glenn High School, and my mom was a physical education teacher at Lincoln Elementary down on Eighth Avenue. She coached girls basketball and track. It wouldn't have been unusual for me to be in a stroller by the track as my mother coached. I learned coaching from watching her coach as a child. My dad was more of an administrator."
"I always say, I learned academics in the classroom, but I learned how to live on the football field and through church. I played baseball, basketball and track and formed life-long bonds with those guys."
We asked Coach Jones how he came into coaching and he replied, "I did volunteer coaching for my brother at Ensley, but I worked full-time as an engineer for Union Carbide. Then, I also coached in the park league (community weight/age classifications) for 13 years. Seven years as an assistant. We lost three games in that span. The last six, I was a head coach, we only lost once." "When I was coaching and Phelon was a baby, I'd be coaching during practice, and I would just lay his skinny butt down and change his diaper right there on the grass."
Jones continued, laughing, "He was there in a stroller, then in a walker, and then he was running around on the field."
"I actually have three sons, Tiger, Carvel and Phelon. I coached each one of them in those leagues. I did some part-time volunteer coaching. Then, when Union Carbide sold out, I was offered the chance to take the severance package, which I did. With my background in engineering, I was able to teach math while I coached at St. Paul's. After a couple of years, I came over to the staff at McGill-Toolen with Coach Savarese."
Carvel Jones was a redshirt freshman linebacker for Coach Sylvester Croom's Mississippi State Bulldogs last year and begins his freshman year this fall. Tiger played for the University of Louisville and went on to the Washington Redskins.
"He is currently with the Louisville Fire, hoping to hear from a NFL team," Jones adds. "We also raised (cousin) Robert McCune, who played linebacker at Louisville and is currently with the Washington Redskins. Keeping Phelon grounded was never a problem because he was never the big dog in the house. He had a lot to look up to."
We asked when he realized Phelon had talent and he stated, "Actually the first year, comparing him to his peers. He was good. I certainly didn't know he would have 30 scholarship offers in his junior year, but I thought he would be pretty good. Phelon started playing football at the age of five, and he was a quarterback then."
Phelon is an all-around great athlete, and we asked of his talent at other sports.
"Triple jumping in track and field. At one time last year, he had the best distance in the country and then finished the year in third. He was really good at basketball too, but we made him quit one of the sports so that he would have an off-season. We didn't want him to knock-off on academics."
We asked if he thought Phelon's talent was God-given, "He was able to work on his God-given talent by emulating his brothers," Jones said. "He would end up with kids that were older, and he would copy them."
Asked about the recruiting oddities Coach Jones tells us, "We sent out tapes in March and five weeks later he had the 30 offers."
"The process really has been good. Nothing bad. We had a well laid-out plan to commit and not visit a bunch of schools. We wanted to be up-front and honest with everybody."
"The attention and hearing people say good things about you is nice. Hearing that they think well of you, but Phelon wanted to go to Miami and get the chance to play early. He didn't dislike Alabama, Auburn or Mississippi State. Playing at Miami was his dream."
"We're just very proud that he's going to go there. Coach Coker is a real gentleman. The character issues were gone when Coach Coker came on board at Miami. We also love Coach Tim Walton. We think he's the best defensive back coach in the country so that's icing on the cake."
"Having the decision over with allows us to not lose sight of Phelon's senior year in high school. College talk is over in our house. It is all about McGill-Toolen now."
We asked Coach Jones, with his coaching duties and two sons playing collegiate football, how will he handle it all.
"I will have to divide my time between Miami and Mississippi State. I'm hoping Coach Savarese will understand and work with me."
Coach Jones is happy at McGill-Toolen and when asked about his future he told us, "I'm happy where I am. I'm not out looking for a head coaching position, but if a head coaching job came up and they contacted me, I would have to look at it."
Coach Jones talked of the special things he and Phelon do together.
"We go places," he said. "We go to sporting events, track meets and after we compete, we will stay and visit the city together."
Asked when Phelon, the youngest, leaves for college, "Well, there will be a void, but you just try to fill it with their accomplishments."
Rebecca Johnston is a feature writer for ScoutSouth.com.
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