Jeris McIntyre was an assistant under Mike Gregory on the Tampa Catholic High School sideline for the past three seasons and blended into his shadow off the field.
But the days of anonymity are gone for McIntyre, who has assumed the leadership mantle of the school where he was a standout receiver. The transition was made official Wednesday with the Crusaders announcing that McIntyre would replace Gregory, who left after five seasons as coach (nine overall) to take an assistant job at Lyon College in Arkansas.
"When I decided to start coaching high school football, I was fortunate enough to come back to my alma mater," McIntyre said. "What better opportunity is there than to return to where it all started for you as a player and learn from some great coaches.
"I didn't plan on becoming a head coach, but I started envisioning what it would be like to take over at Tampa Catholic. Now that dream has come true."
If McIntyre, 37, had a Crusaders pom-pom, he certainly would wave it.
Though McIntyre had a stellar college career at Auburn and played three seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, the first thing listed on his Twitter profile is Tampa Catholic alum.
The institutional knowledge helped McIntyre stand out among other possible coaching candidates. In choosing McIntyre, the Crusaders ensured continuity in style and substance — much to the approval of the returning players and those within the community.
In fact, McIntyre was the first choice all along.
"We had a coaching change and we only had a few weeks before the start of the season to make a change," athletic director Don Dziagwa said. "Naturally, you'll look at the assistant coaches first. When we looked at Jeris, everything fell into place. He's a graduate of the school, he played at Auburn and in the NFL so it was a well-known name and he's had success everywhere he's been.
"We just felt like we didn't need to look anywhere else."
McIntyre said he will not make wholesale changes to the staff. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker David Lewis will remain as the defensive coordinator and former St. Petersburg Catholic coach Dan Mancuso will be promoted to offensive coordinator.
The stability among coaches will also help retain players, something the Crusaders have had trouble doing recently. This offseason, Tampa Catholic had five starters transfer to other schools, including quarterback Kiael Kelly, the son of Crusaders icon Kenny Kelly who is now at bitter rival Jesuit.
Dziagwa noted it was a factor in the coaching decision.
"We knew guys had left, and we heard other teams were already calling our players after hearing Gregory was leaving," Dziagwa said. "We knew we had to name someone as soon as possible because we wanted to let the players still here know there was no reason to leave. They're in good hands with someone they are familiar with."
The hire drew praise from several in the community, including former Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez, who tweeted: "Great pick to take over. Former player of mine, top notch person and player. He's a winner. Trust me."
Still, McIntyre knows all eyes will be on him in one of the most scrutinized transitions among the new coaches in the bay area.
Football at Tampa Catholic, like other schools where the sport has the feel of an assembly line, is about winning. Under Gregory, the Crusaders won three district titles and went to the state semifinals twice.
McIntyre has already won over one key component: the players.
"I like it," senior running back Jalen Bussey said of the hire. "I can't wait to see how this plays out because (McIntyre) is super cool and chill, but we are going to put in work at the same time. He's definitely competitive and wants to win big so might see some high scoring games."