Football: Rico McCoy returns to Colorado as Gateway’s new head football coach


AURORA | Rico McCoy left Colorado with some high school coaching experience hoping to one day return and put that knowledge to work on a program of his own.

That day has arrived, as McCoy has been hired as the new head football coach at Gateway High School.

In his previous stint in the state, the 34-year-old McCoy served as defensive coordinator at George Washington High School in Denver before he went back to his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to complete his degree. Now, he returns to guide a Gateway program that has experienced a high rate of turnover at the position for several years.

Rico McCoy, who most recently served as inside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Division II Allen University, has been hired as the new head football coach at Gateway High School. (Photo courtesy Rico McCoy)

“I’ve been thinking about coming back to Colorado for a couple of years now. What’s not to love about Colorado?” McCoy told The Sentinel Tuesday. “I think it is an amazing opportunity that is in front of me, so I’m excited. …The best work environment is one where you are wanted, appreciated and supported and that’s what I feel when talking to Principal (Scott) Fiske and AD (Paul) Jefferson.

“I’m not a hobby guy. I’ve always been involved in football, so I care. I care about doing things the right way and that’s what we’re going to do at Gateway.”

McCoy is part of a massive turnover in coaching staffs among Aurora’s 11 football programs between last season and the one upcoming in the fall. He is the sixth new hire, joining Justin Jajczyk (Cherokee Trail), Mike Schmitt (Eaglecrest), Dennis York (Hinkley), Chris Dixon (Rangeview) and Brandon Alconcel (Smoky Hill).

Gateway, in particular, has gone through a long list of coaches in recent years. The last two coaches lasted just one year, including Earnest Collins Jr. (who went 0-8 last fall with the program) and Robb Wetta, who resigned after holding the job for 13 months without coaching a single game due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The interim tandem of JC Clyatt and then-athletic director Brendan Netherton coached the Olys to the Class 4A state championship game in the spring of 2021 (where they lost by a point to Thomas Jefferson) when Colorado teams had a choice to play in the fall or spring because of the pandemic.

McCoy — who most recently was the inside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Allen University, a Division II school in Columbia, South Carolina — intends to provide some stability and proof of that commitment starts with moving across the country. His offensive coordinator, Rashad Mason, is also moving in from Tennessee.

“I couldn’t ask for more from Gateway, they’ve definitely accommodated me well and I’ll be a presence in the building, so I’m committed,” McCoy said. “My offensive coordinator is moving with his family, too, so we are serious about this thing. I’ve been around enough to know what I’m looking for and what I want to do and now I’m in that place.”

Jefferson — who took over as athletic director on March 21 — said four candidates for the position came to campus and met with a selection panel and spoke with players, who really took to what they heard in their interaction with McCoy.

“The way he connected with the kids and his journey really stood out,” Jefferson said. “Some of his core values as well. He talked a lot about respect and being a great teacher. In order to even approach being a good coach, you have to be a great teacher and the teaching piece of it really came through in the way he interviewed. The relationship piece of it, even outside of football and the things he plans to do in the community, is also big.”

Teaching the game of football is important to McCoy, who said his study and preparation were the biggest key to his playing career, which was filled with accolades. As a middle linebacker, he was the Washington, D.C., Gatorade Player of the Year for the 2004-05 season while at St. John’s College High School and earned a chance to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, in which he was a team captain.

McCoy went on to be a four-year starter at the University of Tennessee from 2006-2009, where he earned second team All-SEC honors for three straight seasons and got a few professional chances with NFL teams plus some in the Canadian Football League.

“I was a 6-foot, 195-pound middle linebacker out of high school, so it was more about mindset, willpower and knowledge of the game for me,” McCoy said. “I wasn’t going to be the fastest and I wasn’t going to be the strongest, so in order for me to play fast, I had to be good with play recognition and I had to know what the opposing team was doing.

“I’ve been around long enough to realize how important it is to thoroughly teach the game, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

McCoy also hopes to use his experience to guide players who want to play at the next level as far as what they need to do to get there and how to avoid the abundant pitfalls in the process.

As far as Xs and Os, McCoy plans to use his defensive knowledge to run that side of the football with the Olys — plus special teams, where he coached a dynamic unit at Allen — while he will trust Mason with the offense.

McCoy is looking for an offensive line coach as well as a quarterbacks coach to complete his staff.

“I’m ready to get out there and I’m ready to roll,” McCoy said.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

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2 months ago

Good for Gateway.