Moppins learning about football as he prepares to teach

They walk together, step for step, off the rain-soaked turf in Sumner and analyze what went wrong.

For 33-year-old Port Orchard resident Frank Moppins, the discussion with West Sound coach John Corey isn’t just about how he and the semipro Saints can improve in the last four weeks of the Northwest Football League season.

It’s a learning experience for the safety. After all, the Sacramento, Calif., native doesn’t just want to play football, he wants to coach it.

“(Corey’s) a good coach,” Moppins said. “He’s been around for a long time, so I listen to him. I take what he gives to me and apply it to my coaching techniques.”

Moppins said he served as a volunteer basketball coach last season in the South Kitsap School District and has applied to coach football at Cedar Heights Junior High and South Kitsap High School. He is working toward his teaching certificate at Olympic College.

“I just take a course here and a course there,” he said, adding that he played basketball at the College of Alameda in California. “I’m just trying to take it slow so I don’t overwhelm myself. It’s a long game.”

Based on the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder’s demeanor on the field, Corey likes his potential as a leader.

“If there’s a way for us to pull it out of the hat, he’s looking at that way,” he said. “He never holds his head down, so he’s definitely an attribute to this team.”

And with six children — four sons and two daughters — at home, he has experience working with youth.

“They keep me on my toes and they keep me young,” he said. “That’s why I play, too.”

Moppins, who works as a caterer, doesn’t just play for those reasons. The games also allow him to make up for a missed experience when he attended Hiram Johnson High School in Sacramento.

“As a kid I always loved it, but in high school I got kind of lazy so I just stuck with basketball,” he said. “I played five years of semipro ball down in California and there’s no coaching during the summer, so I was like, ‘Why not give it a chance?’ ”

While Moppins tried it, Corey wasn’t quite ready to reciprocate with playing time as he was comfortable with his defensive backfield. He now acknowledges he made a mistake by not getting Moppins involved before the fifth game of last season against the Washington Cavaliers.

“When he first came on the field, I didn’t know his athleticism was as good as it was,” Corey said. “The first game he played in, he just came in and laid the plastic. He has earned his place with his play and dedication.”

Even with the struggling Saints, whose record fell to 1-5 after an 18-12 loss Saturday against the Pierce County Bengals, Moppins relishes the opportunity to play again.

“I’m like a big, old kid,” he said. “I have fun. We do it because we love it.”

And to pick up some wisdom to pass along to the next generation of athletes.

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