Michael Yocca, 39, is the assistant head coach and running backs coach at Central Gwinnett. With six years coaching the Black Knights, Yocca is the longest-tenured coach at Central and was promoted to assistant head coach before this season.
In this installment of "Getting to Know..." staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with Yocca about transitioning from coach-to-coach, teaching special education and watching his former team and alma mater, Louisiana-Monroe, beat Arkansas last Saturday.
BB: Has it been interesting to coach under three head coaches?
MY: I take it as a learning experience. I have learned different things from all three of the head coaches. I take a little bit from each of them and I have tried to be a better coach from all three of them.
BB: Did you always want to be a coach ... or were you going to be an NFL superstar?
MY: I wasn't going to be an NFL superstar, not quite good enough for that. I loved the game and had the opportunity to get into coach and once I got into it, that was it. I was hooked.
BB: How'd you get to Gwinnett?
MY: My family moved here from south Florida and this was actually my first job, coaching here at Central. This is my sixth year here at Central and my sixth year of coaching.
BB: What were you doing before?
MY: I was teaching. I was at a middle school in south Florida. I was at a middle school. It was my first teaching gig and they didn't have middle school football. I wasn't coaching down there.
BB: Well you must love it. You stay around and keep applying with new head coaches.
MY: Absolutely. I like it. I like Central. I like the school here. I like the kids here.
BB: So you were a football player?
MY: Oh yeah. I played at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
BB: So you must be proud (of beating No. 8 Arkansas).
BB: Where you watching it?
MY: It wasn't televised. I was actually following the crawl across ESPN. After it was over, ESPN showed the end of the game. I didn't see it live, I saw it after the fact.
BB: When you were there, did you beat anybody that big?
MY: When I was there, my junior year, we made the jump from 1-AA to 1-A. We had probably the No. 1 toughest schedule that year. I can't remember how exactly the first three games went, but the first three games were: Georgia, the year they had Eric Zeier at quarterback; we played Colorado, they had Kordell Stewart and (Rashaan) Salaam at running back who was the Heisman Trophy winner that year; and we played Auburn, who, if I recall, they were on probation that year and might have been the best team in the country. We played them back-to-back-back so after our first three games we were like the walking wounded. We just got pummeled. By the end of my two years there, we beat Mississippi State and we beat Kentucky. We beat two SEC teams. And since I left we beat Alabama and they just beat Arkansas. For some reason they do pretty good against SEC schools they have no business (beating).
BB: What position did you play?
MY: I was a wide receiver and a placekicker. I should reverse that. I was a placekicker and they let me run around and play a little bit of wide receiver. But ... I was a placekicker. But, it paid for college. It was a good education.
BB: Well, kickers are underrated for what they can mean to a game.MY: They are. You look at (Central's) game last Friday night and we won by three points. Ended up winning by the field goal That was the deciding factor.
BB: Do you coach them?
MY: I work with the kickers.
BB: Your wife, Kristen, teaches at Central. What does she teach?
MY: Language arts.
BB: You too?
MY: I teach special ed.
BB: That must require some patience.
MY: My kids are sweet kids. It's called MOID, moderate program. My kids are very sweet kids.
BB: What drew you to special education?
MY: I've always done special ed, different areas of special ed, but always in the special ed field somewhere. When I graduated from ULM, I went to Dallas and started a masters program and I needed a part-time job. I found a job at an elementary school working as a para, a paraprofessional, an assistant. I was an one-on-one unique aid for a boy with cerebral palsy and I fell in love with this kid. This kid was amazing. He was an incredible kid. I changed my major from what I was doing into education. I went back to south Florida and started a masters program there in special education.
BB: Not that you're trolling for a job, but after six years, would you be interested in moving up to head coach somewhere?
MY: Umm, maybe one day. I think I still have a lot to learn. Coach (Todd) Wofford is a really good offensive mind and I've picked up a lot of things from him. I know there is still a lot to learn. In the future? Yeah, I'd like to be a head coach one day, when the time is right and I'm ready for that next step. But, right now I'm happy here ... In due time, I like to make that jump.