KIPP Endeavor Academy, a college preparatory Charter school in Kansas City’s urban core, will offer high school classes for the first time this fall. The Gators will also field its first freshmen-only football team.
Scorpio Horn is the head coach at KIPP. He left a job as a defensive line coach at Missouri Western State University in May to start the program from scratch. Horn, the brother of former Kansas City Chief and NFL All-Pro wide receiver and Joe Horn, knew the transition from the collegiate level to high school would present many challenges. Finding a suitable field for his team to practice on was not among them.
But such is life for the 24 young men who have participated in volunteer workouts that began this month.
“Right now we’re looking for a football field,” Horn said. “A place to practice where we can cut the grass, get some things lined out and mowed. Our coaches are willing to do that, we just have to find the place.”
Workouts conducted inside a gym or outside on a parking lot adjacent to the school near 18th Street and Prospect Avenue have been grueling. High school football should never be played or practiced on tile floors or asphalt. Facilities are being built, but there is no grass field or turf anywhere in the immediate area to use.
Horn wouldn’t want it any other way, his college coach, Matt Williamson said. Williamson is the head coach at Missouri Western, where Horn and KIPP Activities Director Michael Cobbins were teammates. Williamson hired Horn five years ago after his successful turn leading William Chrisman High School’s football program from 2014-16.
“I can’t think of two better guys doing positive things for the school children of Kansas City,” Williamson said of Horn and Cobbins.
KIPP was offered an unused grass field to practice on by a neighboring school district, Horn said. The handout came with caveats. KIPP would be responsible for the upkeep of the field, including mowing. He couldn’t accept the offer. The Gators lack the necessary equipment and manpower needed to maintain the field.
“We have some gracious donors already, but we’re going to need more,” he said.
Horn’s message to Alex Richardson was direct.
“I’m not trying to make you the best football player,” Horn told the 14-year-old incoming freshman after a recent indoor practice. “I’m trying to change your life. And this is changing your life.”
By his own admission, Alex was out of shape when off-season workouts began. With encouragement from teammates and Horn, Alex lost 11 pounds over the last month. He credits Horn, who wants to use football as a vehicle for student-athletes to improve their opportunities to make a good, honest living.
“Coach Horn is a good guy,” Alex said, struggling to hold back tears. “He can bring you up. He’s a good man.”
Alex paused for a moment when asked about the impact the KIPP Endeavor High School football has had on him in just a few weeks. Many counted Alex out due to academic and behavioral issues in middle school, he said. But not his teammates.
“They’re just trying to bring me up,” Alex said.
‘The exact skill set needed’
Players such as Alex are the reason Horn said he came back to coach at the high school level. He’s been around college and pro ball his entire adult life. Kids need positive role models before then, Horn said.
Jeff Floyd is a longtime football and educator in the area. He was a defensive assistant at the University of Central Missouri in the 1990s when I played there. He was also at one time a head coach at William Jewell College and Truman High School. He has learned a few things about coaching.
“Don’t ever stay for the kids,” Floyd told me a mentor once said. “There will always be more kids that you develop relationships with. And don’t ever leave for money. There are more things important and rewarding than money. If you do a good job, the money will typically follow.”
Horn isn’t making the move from college to high school for either of those reasons, Floyd said. The two worked together in the Independence School District.
“I have had the chance to work with, and observe Coach Horn for many years, and in many different scenarios,” Floyd said. “I have seen him work with elite college athletes, high school and middle school athletes, and even very young athletes during youth camps. I believe he has the exact skill set needed to start and make the high school program at KIPP a shining star in our city.”
KIPP needs help to get the process started. Let’s hope the community responds. Alex and his teammates deserve an equal playing field.
To donate money or equipment to KIPP’s football program, contact Activities Director Michael Cobbins at 816-716-9108 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a check payable to KIPP Athletics, 2700 East 18th Street, Kansas City, MO 64127.