By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published August 2, 2012
Coach Todd Winter is in the midst of a sizzling summer as football workouts at Pinecrest Academy get underway. Earlier this year Winter was named the second head football coach at the private Catholic school in Cumming, replacing Coach Charles Wiggins, who headed up the program for eight years.
Before assuming the reins at Pinecrest, Coach Winter spent the past two seasons as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at North Park University, a NCAA Division III school in Chicago.
The 41-year-old Winter has been married to his wife, Jill, for 21 years. They have two teenage sons, Gatlin, 16, and Garrison, 13. Both teens plan to play football at Pinecrest this season.
On Aug. 31, the first game of the season and a home game, the Pinecrest Paladins will take on Kings Ridge Christian School of Alpharetta.
While busy preparing his team for the 2012 season, the coach took 12 questions from The Georgia Bulletin in a recent email Q&A.
GB: What made the head coaching position at Pinecrest Academy attractive enough for you to leave Chicago for Cumming?
Winter: Three years ago when I took the assistant head football coaching position and offensive coordinator position at North Park University, my wife turned down a promotion in Nashville, Tenn., so we could stay in Chicago. This past December my wife was offered a promotion in this area, and we decided as a family to relocate to the area.
GB: What is your personal coaching philosophy and approach to football?
Winter: Positive Mental Attitude (P.M.A.) A positive mental attitude determines how you deal with problems. Football, like life, is a roller coaster ride. When you’re at the top it is easy to be positive. When you’re in the valley we believe it is your attitude and outlook that allows you to get back to the peak.
GB: Since Pinecrest moved from the Georgia Independent High School Association to the Georgia High School Association, the football team has struggled to win more than three games. Based on your early assessment of this year’s roster and players, how long do you think it will take and what will it require to make the team competitive once again?
Winter: In order for us to become competitive we have to invest in the strength and conditioning program first. Our players have done this, and we have seen some very positive results. One example is our senior quarterback/free safety Jimmy Strom. He has put on almost 30 pounds, and at the Elon and Furman University’s one-day camp … he was timed in the 40 at 4.63. Last year he was 30 pounds lighter and was timed at 4.75.
Secondly, our players must buy into our offensive, defensive and kick game philosophies. We truly believe our players are buying in. Offensively we are a run-oriented triple option attack. On the defensive side of the ball we play a multiple 4-3 and are focused on developing a sound kicking game.
We feel we can be a very competitive team this season, but we must stay healthy. We have a very good punter and kicker (juniors Chris Birozes and Alex Brenner) whom we feel can help us win the field position battle. Offensively, we have two strong fullbacks (seniors John Paul Metz and Jacob Jennings) that can get the tough yards, a quarterback (Strom) who can be very explosive, a big, strong wide receiver (senior Zach Guard) with very good hands that can go up for the ball and, most importantly, a very quick and disciplined offensive line led by our center (senior Thomas Ross). Defensively, it is still early, but we feel we have the personnel to be a solid defense.
GB: Are there any coaches (on any level) whom you admire or look up to and why?
Winter: I have always admired Vince Lombardi because of his work ethic.
GB: In your last job at North Park University you were the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. Will you maintain your role as offensive coordinator, and, if so, what type of offense do you plan to run?
Winter: I hired my slots coach from North Park University to run the offensive. I will still be involved with the offense. We will operate the same offense we ran at North Park—the flexbone triple option. We will look exactly like Georgia Tech and Navy.
GB: Where did you grow up and what is the city or town known for?
Winter: I grew up in Huntington, Ind. It’s the hometown of Dan Quayle.
GB: Who is your favorite professional and collegiate team when it comes to football?
Winter: The Indianapolis Colts and Notre Dame.
GB: What is your favorite Olympic sport?
Winter: Hockey is my favorite winter Olympics sport and track and field is my favorite summer Olympics sport.
GB: Are you a Sports Illustrated guy or a Sports Center (ESPN) guy?
GB: What is your favorite sports movie of all time?
GB: What type of music do you like and who are some of your favorite artists?
Winter: Rock and roll – and AC/DC.
GB’s extra point question: When it comes to Chicago-style hot dogs, is there any topping (yellow mustard, chopped onions, green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, sports peppers and a dash of celery salt) you can do without, or do you like them all?
Winter: I like everything on them—and the best place to get them is Superdawg on Chicago’s north side.