By Dave Lomonico
Larry Webster spent more than half of his 11-year NFL career in Baltimore, where he carved out a niche as a rotational defensive tackle and occasional starter. In 2000, Webster filled in for the likes of Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, doing his part to help the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV.
Now, more than a decade after he played his final snap in Baltimore, Webster is back on the big stage -- as the football coach at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, which is just a few miles from M&T Bank Stadium.
"Maybe to others it isn't such a big deal, but to me, this high school coaching job is something out of a storybook," said Webster, an Elkton native who played his college ball at Maryland before the Dolphins selected him during the third round of the 1992 NFL draft. "I'm the normal, everyday guy who had a chance to live his dream and play for a Super Bowl winner. Then, to top it all off, I have a chance to come back to the city where I won and mold the young men in the community. To me, that's fairytale stuff."
After Webster's NFL career ended in 2002 with the New York Jets, he began pursuing a coaching career. Former Baltimore defensive coordinator and current Jets coach Rex Ryan got him started as a Ravens sideline intern.
Three years later, Webster saw an opportunity to move up when he met a Poly coach and expressed interest in a vacant assistant's job. Longtime coach Roger Wrenn, who was the Engineers' chief up until last December, decided to give him a shot. For the next three years, Webster put in time as an unpaid assistant, coaching Poly's linemen.
When Wrenn stepped down after six seasons at Poly, Webster jumped at the chance to take over the program.
"I've been on the job for a couple months now, and I'm absolutely loving it," said Webster, who was officially hired in mid-June. "I love the challenge. Coaching in high school isn't easy, because you really have to stay on the kids. They're exposed to all kinds of things growing up, and you have to be able to deal with that.
"They've got hormones flying everywhere. There's all this peer pressure. There's girls. There's academics. I want to give them the tools to deal with all of that and come out of this as upstanding young men."
By all accounts, Webster is off to a good start. Wrenn vouched for him, and his current players have seemingly bought in, too.
"Coach Webster has been tremendous," senior running back Stephen Scott said. "As players, we respect what he's accomplished in the NFL, and we respect what he's teaching us. He is on point, very detail-oriented and very disciplined."
Not only does Webster bring a wealth of football knowledge, but he's had a multitude of poignant experiences to impart to his young protégés. Namely, he was suspended three times during his career for drug- or alcohol-related abuses. Webster said he openly addressed his past, and used it as a teaching tool.
"These kids will see right through you if [you lie], so I'm truthful with them," Webster said. "I tell them about my scars and how those scars made me a stronger man in the long run. I'm hoping that means something to these kids, and they'll use that to make the proper decisions in their life."
"Coach Webster has definitely been through it," Scott said. "We can learn a lot from his past experiences, on and off the field."
Of course, Webster would like to win some games, too. For all the success Poly has had during its 129-year history, the Engineers haven't won a modern-era state championship.
Although walking away with a title would be nice, Webster said it's secondary to making sure every Poly player got a chance to go to college, whether that's as an athlete with a football scholarship or as a hard-working student looking for an advanced degree.
"No matter what they do athletically beyond high school, they have to leave this institution and seek a higher education," Webster said. "That's what's most important. If I can put every player in position to go to college, then I've done my job as a coach."
More Cheap Seats:
• Johnson Uses Hand Controls To Put Pedal To The Metal
• Webster Lives His Fairytale As Coach Of Poly Engineers
• Ex-Gilman Ace Miller Shoots For Golf Moon
• Szefc Aims To Keep State Stars At Home
• Wiseman Tournament To Aid Young Bowlers
• Here's League Where Big Kids Get To Play
Issue 176: August 2012