Joe Davidson

Hometown Report: Grams, Capital Christian football coach, OK after collapsing

Published: Saturday, Sep. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 - 8:13 am

Like some doctors, coaches can be their own worst enemy.

Coaches tend to fret over losses more than they appreciate victories. And some are hypocrites, preaching and demanding that their players take care of themselves while ignoring the advice themselves.

Phil Grams certainly fits the mold.

Grams, a third-year football coach at Capital Christian High School, was so consumed with having his Cougars ready for a Zero Week opener against Golden Sierra that he neglected to take care of himself. Grams collapsed just before halftime, and players and staff surrounded him. Grams got up, wondered what all the fuss was about and reached for his headphones. He declined to seek medical assistance, arguing that there was a game to finish.

"I was forced off the field," Grams, 43, said Thursday from his office as he prepared for a greater challenge tonight at 7:30 at rival Bradshaw Christian in the annual Fish Bowl. "I was dehydrated, and that caused an elevated heart rate. My chest was tight, couldn't breathe. I was scared, the trainer was scared, the players.

"Once I got my breath back, I knew I was OK, but I didn't want to leave because I didn't want to leave my team. But I know that was the wrong message. You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of your team."

Grams wouldn't allow a friend to drive him to a hospital until after he watched, from the parking lot, Justice Shelton-Mosley score on a punt return to seal a 48-0 victory.

Grams, an Illinois native, is single with no children, so he has embraced Capital Christian as a 24/7 project; his players are his family.

But he knows there should be limits.

"Coaches have resigned because we don't take care of ourselves," Grams said. "We don't get enough sleep. We're all wound up. We should know better, but … "

Grams has had a follow-up exam, blood tests and an EKG. He took in lectures about hydration and rest. He couldn't go anywhere on campus this week without someone handing him a bottle of water or asking if he needed something to eat. On his desk is a card of well-wishes from cheerleaders and staff.

"My doctor is telling me I need seven hours of sleep a night," Grams said. "It's hard. It's the nature of the beast, this job, and doctors don't understand the grind and the windup, but they're right."

Shelton-Mosley told Grams he can rest easy, that the Cougars share his goal of a championship season.

Shelton-Mosley, a 6-foot, 180-pound honors student, leads the charge. He can run the ball, catch it, play defense and turn games as a return specialist.

And he worries about his coach.

"Coach is very stubborn," Shelton-Mosley said. "He doesn't listen to himself. He told doctors he can't sleep more because it's football season. But he knows we care about him. He knows he needs to change, and we're here for him."

Shelton-Mosley added: "We'll keep winning. That'll take the stress off of him."

Grams said he will be rested and ready for tonight's showdown. The winner has the Fish Bowl trophy for the next year – and an improved shot at a CIF State Bowl berth.

And Grams knows his biggest victory will be remaining upright the rest of the season.

Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty break down high school football each Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. on ESPN1320.

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