ST. PETERSBURG — Jeremy Frouid isn’t your average guy, let alone your average high school football coach.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder sports shoulder-length hair, a thick beard and mustache, and has tattoos covering his arms from the wrist up.
But Frouid, entering his first year as a head coach as practice begins today, isn’t inheriting your average team. Northeast High was 1-9 last season and had about 20 players remaining when it finished the season.
The longtime Largo and Palm Harbor assistant has made many changes within the program, including fundraising efforts to buy new uniforms. He also has changed expectations for his players.
“They were babied before,’’ Frouid said. “There wasn’t a lot of discipline. Some kids wouldn’t show up to practice, then would expect to play on Friday. We had to hold them accountable, make them tough. We want to turn these boys into men, make them responsible. It’s the most important time of their lives and we want to be there for them and build a program here.’’
Frouid, who grew up in Tarpon Springs, knows something about accountability.
“I was a troubled kid in my early years and didn’t have a passion for anything,’’ he said.
It was only after his dad introduced him to weightlifting and he went out for the football team at Tarpon Springs that his future started to take shape.
Frouid played collegiately at Western Kentucky, but a knee injury derailed his career.
“I was in a bad place mentally my first two years of college,’’ Frouid said. “I was always having knee surgeries. And when I got to college I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living. After I didn’t pass the physical to play my fifth year, I came back here and began coaching at Largo High School and one day I thought to myself, ‘It’d be pretty sweet to be a P.E. teacher and a football coach.’ ”
Frouid did just that, becoming a physical education teacher and defensive line coach. He saw a reflection of his younger self in the kids he started coaching and found his calling.
“I learned a lot in college about how to treat people and how to get them to do things, because I wasn’t the easiest kid to coach. I was a hothead and I saw myself in them and I connected with them,” Frouid said.
Then in 2010, after Largo had made two straight state semifinal appearances, defensive coordinator Matt LePain left to become head coach at Palm Harbor and brought Frouid along as the defensive coordinator.
After three years there, Frouid was yearning to become a head coach but kept getting turned down. Then he got a phone call from Northeast principal Keith Hendricks.
“I saw something in Jeremy,’’ Hendricks said. “I didn’t care about his tattoos. I cared about what he’d done and knew he was a winner, great motivator and really good with kids. So, I offered him the head coaching job here.”
Frouid jumped at the opportunity and brought seven assistants from Largo. But he also brought the one thing the kids at Northeast desperately needed — hope.
“Last season it was tough just to show up to practice and only have 19 kids here, which isn’t even enough for a scout team,’’ senior Anthony Crandon said. “No one cared. I never want to go through that again. And from the first day he came here, he told us how excited he was for the season. Hearing that gave me hope.
“He’s brought more pride, integrity and made us tougher and I know he’s going to bring this program back to its glory days.”