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Why new Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon was always meant to hold this role

12Sports takes a look at where Gannon grew up and talks with those who knew him back in the day to see why JG was meant to be a head coach in the NFL

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals and new head coach Jonathan Gannon are deep into preparing for the NFL Draft, which will be held in Kansas City from April 27-29.

This is Gannon’s first time ever preparing for a draft, going through an NFL offseason, and getting ready to lead a team as their head coach, but if you ask the people who knew him growing up, it’s clear, Gannon was meant to take on this role.

Part of the reason why is that Gannon is a good listener.

“I’ve always kind of been like that,” Gannon told reporters during his media availability at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last week. “Some of my mentors taught me that at a young age. I just value the opinion of the players because, I always say they’re in between the white lines, I’m not.”

When he was between the white lines, or on the basketball court, or on the track, Gannon was pretty good.

“Not just a great athlete, but I’ve always considered him one of those top teammates,” Ryan Franzinger, Gannon’s teammate at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, said.

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Gannon was a 3-sport state champion superstar and is now a member of the St. Ignatius High School Athletic Hall of Fame. 

“He wasn’t like, 'well I only have to know my position and not think about anything else,'” said Chuck Kyle, Gannon’s high school football coach. “He was the guy that could go, 'no, you’re doing this because we need you to be doing this,' and those type of wheels, you could tell he loved that part.”

Gannon was a key piece of the St. Ignatius High football dynasty. He wore No. 2 and he was everywhere on the field, playing wide receiver and defensive back.

Kyle watched it all and said even back then, JG was like a coach on the field. 

“Everybody loved him,” Kyle said. “Everybody loved to be with him. And he’s not pretending to be some other coach. No, you’re not a Vince Lombardi, Jon. You’re not. You’re Jon Gannon. And what’s beautiful about it is, with that personality he has and just the way he communicates, it fits perfectly with what he’s doing.”

Coaching and winning make up his DNA. This was his response when asked about hitting two late free throws to seal a state championship.

“(One of) the greatest answers I have ever heard, so appropriate, he said, ‘I was nervous,’ but he said, ‘but I was also very relieved because I didn’t have to worry about anybody else. It was in my hands. And I could do it. And not have to rely on anybody else. It’s in my hands.’ And we’re all sitting there going, okay fellas, it’s time to go to bed, that’s good,” Kyle said. 

A career-ending injury in college at Louisville sent Gannon to the sidelines to start his coaching career. 

“And that’s when I realized I wanted to be a head coach,” Gannon said at his introductory press conference with the Arizona Cardinals last month. “Preparing to be a head coach is not hard if you have a growth mindset and you listen to people.”

That keyword once again is 'listen.' And it especially applies when it comes to his players.

“He’s coaching in the Super Bowl and his defense is ranked like No. 1 in all these categories,” Kyle said. “It brings a tear to your eye. (I’m) just so proud of him.”

“That’s how I kind of go about my process now,” Gannon said. “We’re here to serve the players and it’s really no different if you’re a leader on a team, that’s what you’re trying to do as well. So, (it was) a very easy transition from playing to coaching.”   

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