It is said that success breeds success. Galion Middle School 7th and 8th-grade boys had the opportunity to learn about the keys to success from individuals with a strong personal connection to Galion during the first ever Champions Day.
The activities, organized by GMS teacher Troy Yunker with the help of the entire Middle School staff, centered around the things the students can start doing to lay the foundation to become a champion. Individuals with ties to Galion, along with several former 1985 players and coaches, led breakout sessions with students.
Former Tigers assistant coach Mr. Greg Gillum, who was a member of the 1985 state championship staff, opened the morning by sharing the five keys that he believes can help the current middle school boys become champions in life.
“My first coaching job was with Galion, and I was so bad I was coaching from cards,” Gillum said. “You can always get better and learn, and that was the first professional experience I had with facing and overcoming adversity.”
Coach Gillum was a member of Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer’s staff as Director of High School Relations. Gillum brought in the rings he earned as part of the Buckeyes 2014 National Championship team to share with the students.
“Coming back to Galion for this event is very touching,” Gillum said. “I never had the dreams of going to Ohio State, but to know it all started with the relationships built in Galion is very special.”
Ashland University Head Football Coach Lee Owens, who was at the helm of the Tigers football program for the special season in 1985, closed out the day’s activities by talking about adversity. Prior to Champions Day, Coach Owens asked Mr. Yunker to have each student write about the personal adversity they were facing in their lives and he shared stories of two former Tigers and how they overcame adversity to achieve success in their lives.
“It means the world to me to come back to Galion because my greatest accomplishment as a coach happened here,” Coach Owens said. “It wasn’t the state championship team that has been my greatest success, it was the success of guys like Carl Johnson after high school that give me a great sense of accomplishment.”
Galion is a special place for Coach Owens, who has enjoyed a successful 25-year coaching career at both the high school and collegiate football levels. Most recently, Coach Owens led the Ashland University Eagles football team to the 2015 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title.
“Troy played for us and I’ve stayed in touch over the years, and I agreed to help bring back some of the guys from the championship team,” Owens said. “These kids need to hear the stories of individuals like Carl Johnson and Brent Esposito to understand that no matter the adversity they are facing today, they have a chance to be successful in their lives.”
The individuals who gave of their time to be with the students included: Chad Ruhl, Chris Campbell, Mike Smith, Chris Barnett, Brent Esposito, Tom Stacey, Greg Gillum, Gary Whittaker, Tim Miller, Doug Castle and Coach Lee Owens.
“The day was not about football or sports but about the character, discipline, work ethic and other personality traits that it takes to be a champion after sports and after middle and high school,” Yunker said. “It was a good lesson on life, and the champions were the means to communicating the message. What a group of champions.”
“I want to thank Mr. Yunker and the Middle School for taking the initiative to organize Champions Day for our students,” Superintendent Jim Grubbs said. “I know many of these individuals, and have a special relationship with Doug Castle. He is the one individual I can say who had the most positive impact on my life as the principal of the Junior High School I attended.”