If you are wondering what former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt has been doping with himself since he shanked that kick wide right against the Steelers in the divisional round of the 2005 playoffs, then this post is for you. Apparently, the product of Canada who, at one time, was the most accurate kicker in NFL history, has been coaching middle school kids in Naples, FL.
However, things apparently have taken a turn for the worse for Vanderjagt.
According to a story from Cheryl Ferrara at the Naples Daily News, Vanderjagt recently went all Bobby Knight on a student, grabbing him by the throat for taunting him with "wide right" comments in a parking lot.
The incident took place on March 12 when Marco Island Police responded to a call from Mark Albanese, dean of students at the school, who reported an adult male grabbed a student by the throat. Since the incident happened at the end of day, the student involved and witnesses had gone home.
Police investigated the following day, talking to students at the scene and to Vanderjagt. One student was taunting Vanderjagt by yelling "wide left, wide left" through a rolled-up poster board that acted as a megaphone, according to a Marco police report.
"During his career, he missed a very important field goal attempt during a playoff game," the report stated. Vanderjagt played for the Indianapolis Colts and was one of the most accurate place-kickers ever in the league.
Vanderjagt, a school parent and volunteer, was walking through the parking lot when he overheard the comments. One student alleged Vanderjagt walked up to him, grabbed him by the throat and started cursing at him, according to the police report. Another student corroborated his story.
Immediately after the incident, Vanderjagt was suspended from coaching at Marco Island’s Charter Middle School. At a recent meeting, the charter school board voted 4-2 to leave the leave Vanderjagt's fate as a coach in the hands of the school principal. Vanderjagt reportedly spoke to the parents of the student he allegedly assaulted two days after the incident, and he apologized.
Like Knight in 2000, if Vanderjagt did assault a student for taunting in in a parking lot, he should be fired from coaching. Mike was subject to far worse verbal abuse during his playing career, and he never ran up into the stands and tried to grab any grown men by the throat (for the simple reason that, if he did, he probably wouldn't make it out of the stands alive). That he would allegedly do it to a child does not speak well of Vanderjagt's character, just as it didn't speak well of former coach Bobby Knight's when he was recorded throttling Indiana University basketball player Neil Reed during a practice in 1997. That it took I.U. three years to fire Knight after the incident was a disgrace to the school and to college basketball. It should not take Marco Island’s Charter Middle School the same amount of time if Vanderjagt commented a similar act.
Note to coaches everywhere: Hands off the kids. If you are doing stuff like this to kids during a practice, you aren't a coach. You are bully, and you have no business teaching children anything.
Tip to Ryan Dempsey for sending me the link to this story on Twitter.