Grimaldi's Parent Appreciation Award winner profile: Houston Stratford's Jeff O'Block

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Football fans understand all-too-well the emotions that go with a player’s senior season.

For most, their senior year marks the final time they’ll wear their helmet, pads and jersey that’s collected so much blood, sweat and tears.

It’s a big year for the senior parents as well, and doubly so if those parents are watching their youngest son’s final football games.

For Houston Stratford defensive back Charles O’Block and his father, Jeff, the 2019 season will be the last high school season in the family. Jeff coached Charles on all of his youth teams before turning him over to the middle and high school staffs, so he wanted to make sure he had an up-close look at how this final season played out.

“We all love our kids and this is our last year with football,” Jeff O’Block said. “I’ve coached my son, and a lot of these players, since they were 7 years old.”

To make sure he had a front-row seat to everything, O’Block volunteered to help coach Todd Rankin as much as he could this season. O’Block serves as the liaison between the coaching staff and an army of parent volunteers who work each week to make their children’s experience the best it can be.

“He’s the behind-the-scenes workhorse that keeps everything running smoothly,” Rankin said. “He’s always on hand to help as things come up during the week. He’s truly there for us to make sure we can do whatever we need to do to serve the kids.”

Among a long list of tasks, O’Block coordinates who’s preparing and delivering food for the coaches to eat during breaks in their meetings, and he also helps organize the weekly Thursday night pregame dinners. The offensive players usually eat at one house, where several families team up to provide dinner. The same holds true for the defensive players. Coordinating meals is deeply personal to O’Block.

“Some of these kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” he said. “We need to do more for all of them.”

Rankin said O’Block’s service goes beyond football to other elements of the school’s all-sports booster club.

“He serves in many different ways, not just with football but with all of our programs,” Rankin said.

O’Block admits there’s a deeply personal reason to volunteer. Football’s been a big part of his life and he’s just not ready to give it up.

“Serving between the coaches and the players and families lets me fuel this football addiction,” he admitted. “I don’t know what I’m going to do when the season is over.”

O’Block also wants to be the conduit from this group of parent volunteers to the next. Stratford graduated a large senior class last season, which meant a large class of volunteers also graduated. He, along with others, stepped up. Now he’s encouraging parents of younger players to become more involved as well.

“One year you have a lot of parents and volunteers, and the next you may not,” he said. “That was our team. I just want to get parents to understand what they can do to help out and be involved.”

The Spartans will play their seventh game Friday against Houston Memorial. A win would enable the team to surpass their win total from 2018. Subsequent wins would potentially mean a trip to the playoffs.

However long this final season lasts, O’Block wants to help out and enjoy the ride, both for his son, his son’s friends, and himself.

“Sports was such a positive influence on me when I was growing up and I give a lot of that credit to my coaches,” he said. “I just want to do what I can for this team and these kids. I just wish there was more I could do.”

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