Editor's Note: This story is part of The Partnership Project, a series of content written in an effort by The Daily News to follow the formal collaboration of Ball State University and Muncie Community Schools. Read more in this series here.
Coach Lee said he was “excited” to be taking up his new gig as head football coach of Muncie Central’s football team. But in the sidelines, he balances his other schedule — being a student at Ball State.
Darrick Lee, who was announced as the head coach of Muncie Central High School’s football team May 14 at the Muncie Community Schools Board of Trustees meeting.
“I’ve just been blessed, and fortunate and so thankful to be able to do multiple things and to have the flexibility to be open,” Lee said.
The dual challenge of being a coach and a student at the same time might be challenge for some, but for Coach Lee, “both motivate each other, hand in hand.”
“For me to accomplish one at the ultimate level, I feel like I need to also pay attention to the other,” he said.
When it comes to accomplishing the tasks at hand, “patience” is what Coach Lee said has helped him.
“For me everything is about patience,” Lee said. “I’ve taken some time away from some things just to focus on myself, focus on getting better at my craft and just trying to become a better overall version of myself.”
Cameron Gillentine, one of Lee’s former students, said the coach will do a “fantastic job” in his new position.
“He balances [work and school] well and does what he has to do to get done,” Gillentine said. “Speaks volumes about his work ethic.”
Gillentine will also be joining Ball State Football in the 2019-20 academic year.
“I used to go to Ball State games when I was little and they seemed like giants, or like superheroes,” he said. “It’s kind of funny to think about that I’m one of those guys now that I saw when I was a little kid.”
Two years ago, when Coach Lee was the Junior Varsity head coach at Muncie Central — his first leadership role — Gillentine was his starting quarterback.
“It’s almost like a dream come true — for me to see him shine, and be able to go forward, and use some of the things that we’ve worked on and that I maybe have taught him,” Lee said.
Gillentine said his best memory of Coach Lee was him being “fired up” and “pumped up” when they played Yorktown in his sophomore year.
“It was just kind of amusing because, you know, the game was over and he’s still going and going,” he said.
Being energetic, likable and persuasive were the best traits Gillentine said the coach brings to the table. He also said he knows a lot of students who joined the Muncie Central team because of Coach Lee.
With it being his first year as head coach, Lee expects there to be new challenges that he has not had to take on previously, but was excited and looking forward to working with the team.
“I definitely have had the opportunity to be around some great men and some great leaders that have been at Muncie Central,” Lee said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work under three of the past head coaches. So, I’ve been able to learn so much information from them and just learn so much about just mentoring and leading.”
Lee said he’s seen a lot of the students grow up, some from as far back from seventh grade, and knew the students in Muncie Central’s football team were excited to have him as coach.
While unsure about what he’ll want to major in, Gillentine said he wanted to get into coaching, or study something along the lines of education or athletic administration.
“[Lee]’s the kind of guy I would want to be like as a coach,” Gillentine said. “I have a lot of respect for him.”