By Angela Simmons
O’FALLON – OTHS’s new varsity football head coach can’t wait to get to work. Byron Gettis, Cahokia High School graduate, former MLB player, former Division 1 football player, and all around hard worker says he’s honored to have the position. “I’m super excited about this opportunity,” Gettis said. Not only will he serve as the head coach, he was also hired by District 203 to serve as their truancy, residential and diversity coordinator for the 2019-2020 school year.
This won’t be Gettis’s first position with the OTHS team, and he has a long history in athletics. He played baseball and football at Cahokia. He was a three year starting quarterback, an all state player and chosen player of the year his junior and senior year. After high school, Gettis followed his love of baseball all the way to the major leagues, signing as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Royals. In the 2004 season, the outfielder nabbed over 400 outs and had a .179 batting average in 39 at bats, including doubles, triples and an RBI. After the 2004 season, Gettis was picked up by the Detroit Tigers and headed back to the minor leagues for a year before switching gears.
In 2006, Gettis headed to SIUC to begin earning his degree in the field of education and played as a tight end for the Salukis. In the 2007 season, the Salukis had an impressive playoff run and lost in the semi-finals to Delaware. Gettis noted that the quarterback for the winning Delaware team was none other than Joe Flacco. Next up was three seasons with the McKendree Bearcats before his graduation.
Right out of college, Gettis wanted to continue using his talents to coach the next generation of athletes, beginning with assistant coaching the OTHS football team. He has also coached at his college alma mater McKendree, helped begin the football program at Lindenwood University’s Belleville campus, coaching there for four years before moving on to serve as an assistant football coach and athletic director at Cahokia.
His vast experience will help him coach the OTHS team. “It will help in understanding different players, different people, different mindsets and techniques. That helps anyone out the more you know about something. Personal experience is always a good tool, especially with high school players. As you’re molding and shaping young people, the more knowledge you have of different situations that they’re going to go through, you can give them more direction and guidance on which way to go,” he said.
His passion and drive have pushed him through his athletic career, and that mentality is also a tool he will bring to the new position. Gettis said “I tell people I wasn’t a straight A student, I wasn’t the most athletic, I think my biggest attribute is my work ethic. You may be taller, stronger or faster than me, but I’m going to work harder than you. That’s what I’ve built my foundation on, that kind of blue-collar mentality that if you give me any opportunity…you know, give me one rep, it’s going to be the best rep ever. When you get these opportunities, don’t squander them; Work hard and good things will happen. You can control your work ethic. When a team, or anybody, says that they’re going to outwork people, that lends you to goal-setting and goal-reaching. It can bring a team together. Different background and different diversities all come together when they have the same discipline and the same mindset.”
Gettis is already planning on beginning work with the team immediately, saying he can’t wait. With a chunk of the offseason already gone, he plans to jump right in to weight-lifting, including possible competitions to help fire up the players for the upcoming year. He also plans to build relationships with the players and other team staff so that when the season begins, they’re ready to compete on all levels. “The team was young last year, and they got some valuable experience in the teams that they played. This year, they’ll be able to use that to help move forward. I have a simple plan. We’re going to show up and out work everyone, we’re going to compete and be disciplined, and we’re going to have fun. Those are the things we’re going to live by. X’s and O’s to me don’t matter as much. You could have the best X’s and O’s, but if you don’t have the heartbeat of your team, and your team is not willing to work for you, those X’s and O’s don’t matter,” he said.
Gettis spoke about how much football, especially Southwest conference football, means to Metro East communities, and how the growth and support in O’Fallon will be part of an exciting season. “We have one of the top bands, we have great community support, we have diversity. It’s exciting, it’s a big deal. A lot of people know about the achievements of District 203, and I’m so excited to be a part of it and seeing these young men grow up in this type of environment and have success,” he said.
The self-described “people person” said it doesn’t matter where someone is from or what background they have, he enjoys being around them and having conversations, but he especially enjoys mentoring people and seeing them achieve their goals. “Females, males, younger people, peers, it doesn’t matter. We can have a positive effect on everyone through the little things we do. The Metro East is one tight knit community that is both competitive and supporting, and it’s part of why I wanted to come home and make an impact,” said Gettis.
He noted that his gift of building relationships is something he’s counting on, both in coaching and in his new position at the high school, as he rekindles old relationships and builds new ones “with familiar and welcoming faces.” It also means he will face off against some of the people he’s worked with for the past few years, as OTHS will play Cahokia in their next two seasons. “The state is moving to districts, but we will play them for the next two years. We play Cahokia this year in week nine at O’Fallon, and then we will go there in 2020. It was difficult for me to play O’Fallon when I worked at Cahokia, and with that being my home and the special relationships I’ve built, it will be different standing on the other sideline, but I’m looking forward to the competitive spirit. They know we’re going to compete, we know they’re going to compete, so it should be really fun,” he said.
Gettis said he wants O’Fallon community members and OTHS students and families to know “I’m going to work hard for them. I’m going to work hard for the students. I’m going to work hard for their families. I’m going to work hard for this community. They will be proud of me as a leader, as a mentor. Whether it’s the kid that plays every snap, a kid that plays some snaps, or a kid that isn’t into athletics at all, I can’t wait to work with them, and my goal is to give all that I have for them, and for OTHS.”