By GIUSEPPE UNGARO
Kevin Sinclair is home. The former Ocean City High School gridiron star returned to his alma mater this past summer to work, as well as join the football staff as the running backs coach.
Sinclair has felt the love and support from the beginning, but especially this past month after his mother, Janet, passed away.
“I have to thank the staff, administration and the community as well,” Sinclair said. “They have given me so much support when my mom passed away.”
That’s what family does. Sinclair has always been a part of the Red Raiders family ever since he put on the red-and-white football jersey. Sinclair currently resides in Northfield with his wife, Kristen, his 7-year-old son, Brayden, and 3-year-old daughter Brooklyn.
Sinclair, who graduated in 1997, holds numerous rushing and scoring records, including the all-time leading rusher in school history with 5,380 yards. He is considered by many as the best player in school history, as well as the leader of arguably the best team in history in 1996.
“Kevin Sinclair is the last person to talk to you about Kevin Sinclair,” current head coach Kevin Smith said. “The first time I told (the team) ‘this is coach Sinclair, and do you know how many yards rushing he had in high school?’ They just kind of looked at me. I said, ‘Kevin had over 5,000 yards rushing in high school.’ They couldn’t believe it. They kind of laughed and thought I was exaggerating. He demands a lot of respect, as you can imagine.”
Sinclair rushed for more than 1,600 yards and 30 touchdowns during his senior season 20 years ago, leading the undefeated Red Raiders to the S.J. Group 4 championship with a 284-yard, four-touchdown performance. He also scored six touchdowns in a game twice during his high school career.
“It was a different time. We had fun,” Sinclair said of his high school team. “We all grew up playing together. It was all about the city and the community, and having fun. It was just about playing football, basketball or track. It was just about competing.”
He added: “I was fortunate enough to be on a good team. I know for a fact we never chased any records. That’s not what we did at Ocean City. We were on a mission, and that was to win.”
The mission is always to win, and now Sinclair is trying to do it as a coach. The 39-year-old has been on numerous coaching staffs, including Middle Township, Wildwood and Cedar Creek.
Smith was part of Gary Degenhardt’s coaching staff when Sinclair ruled the gridiron, and was happy to give his former player a spot on his coaching staff. Older brother, Dan, coaches the freshmen at Ocean City.
“I coached Kevin back when he was here and he and I always had a good relationship,” Smith said. “He approached me a couple years ago after he coached at Cedar Creek. We just couldn’t make it work at that time. Things opened up for him. There was an aide position open at the high school. He applied and got the job, so it made it much easier to bring him on board.”
“Coach Smith was always the guy that pushed competition and competing. He was always the coach you can lean on and talk to,” said Sinclair.
He added: “Everybody has been very supportive. I appreciate the staff, the administration and coach Smith inviting me onto the staff.”
Although two decades have passed, Smith still sees the same attitude Sinclair had racking up yards and points at Carey Stadium.
“He has the same personality as he had as a player. He is quiet and direct,” Smith said. “He doesn’t say too much, but when he has a point to make, he makes it directly to the kids and they listen. He was the same way as a player. He never spoke up, He wasn’t a rah-rah guy. You wouldn’t hear two words from him, but he would go out and rush for 250 yards. But when he had something to say, everybody listened. He’s that same way now. He doesn’t waste his words.”
He may not waste words, but Sinclair has plenty of experience as a player and a coach to teach to this generation of Red Raiders. His playing days mean a lot to Sinclair and he tries to pass on the same lessons he learned while at Ocean City.
“I want them just to have fun. Just be who you are, be true to yourself,” Sinclair said. “If you do the right thing most of the time — because nobody is prefect all of the time — it works out.”
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu
By GIUSEPPE UNGARO