In 11 seasons before Vince Lombardi became head coach of the Green Bay Packers, the team never had a winning season. But Lombardi changed took control and built a winning team by demanding the utmost from his players and staff, breaking them down and rebuilding them and he put up with little or no resistance to his methods. The NFL's Super Bowl Trophy is named after him – The Lombardi Trophy.
Over at Mississippi Delta Community College there may be a Lombardi story in the making if MDCC softball head coach Brad Grinstead has enough time there. His name isn't on any trophy – yet. But give him some time.
The 30-year-old Colorado native recently finished his second season at the helm and is working to institute his style of play and scour the Delta and beyond for those who can play it. After playing collegiate baseball in Arkansas at Hendrix College, Coach Grinstead headed north.
"There were a lot of stops in between," Coach Grinstead said. "After college I played for the WNBO – a semi-pro team in Canada."
The former catcher "blew out his arm" and had to get Tommy John surgery and then got a rather unique offer from his alma mater.
"I came back to finish out my degree and I had dated a softball player while in college and got to know the softball coach," he explained. "The coach said she needed help when the assistant left. 'She said, you come do your rehab for free and come coach for me?'"
The free offer turned into a career and Grinstead didn't change his mentality from coaching boys to girls. He let them all know from the get-go how it was going to be.
"I told them I'm going to treat you harder than the guys. I expect the same out of them in intensity, effort and attitude."
The kinesiology major went from Hendricks to Lyon College and then Moorhead.
The only knowledge of the Delta he had was through a friend who went to Delta State and was coaching in Arkansas. Rebuilding a team is something Grinstead has had plenty of experience with.
"I took a leap of faith to come down and rebuild the program. It's all I've ever done as a player and a coach. It's something I sleep, eat and breathe taking a program and turning it around and making it a championship contender."
Coming to Moorhead to compete in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC), Grinstead has stepped into probably the most tenuous and challenging rebuild in a two-year cycle of JUCO.
"I feel like it's going to take us four to five years to truly turn this around to where we are a serious competitor. Our conference is comparatively speaking referred to as the SEC of JUCO softball," Coach Grinstead said. "I will say we are one of the strongest conferences in Division II JUCO. Jones is number one in the country right now, they were National Champions the year before and runners up the year before that. Itawamba and Gulf Coast and the list of schools go on and on. A lot of northern teams will come down to Mississippi and play everybody in the conference and struggle. Then they go back up north and kick people's butts. From bottom to top our conference is very strong and on any given day anyone can beat anyone."
But if anyone can take the Trojans to the promised land, Coach Grinstead has the capability. He helped oversee a remarkable turnaround at Lyon, due in large part to his recruiting efforts, where the Scots won only 17 games in his first season, but by his third season, had 30 wins. He still has the same playbook to rebuild the Lady Trojans. His style of play?
"My philosophy is play the game the way it's meant to be played. That may sound crazy but I'm very big on bringing in the type of attitude and having players that play the game hard, are willing to dive and get dirty and play with intensity. That's the way the game is meant to be played. It's meant to be played, hard fast and fun. Show up with intensity and leave the field with no regrets. At the end of the day we are going to find kids who fit our style whether they are two miles down the road or 200."
As a SCAC Academic Honor Roll student at Hendrix, Coach Grinstead is also looking for players who combine those special skills and attitude with the same force in the classroom. Half scholarships are the norm for Community College baseball and softball so full rides are put together in creative ways with academic awards as well.
"The challenge in the Delta is everyone wants to get away from home," he said. "We want to get a lot of kids with a lot of playing experience but that's hard because there aren't as many travel teams. You recruit private schools in the fall and public schools in the spring."
Out of the dugout, Coach Grinstead has put in sweat equity to build an experience at MDCC with refining the field, dugout and entire Lady Trojan Softball Field into one that any school would envy. And when the Lady Trojans hit the road they are in safe hands as former Army Special Forces member Kevin Miller provides bus driving.
"I promise you this, he's the most entertaining bus driver in the whole state. Not only do we hunt together and go eat together but we ride the bus together," Coach Grinstead said. "The only times we don't get a bus drive is when AP (his fiancé's daughter) is playing or he's turkey hunting."
"Part of the plan when I accepted the job was to have a facelift for the facility. We want to get people excited about Mississippi Delta softball. We've had a complete renovation of the field including custom windscreen, new dugout, new cages, new tur in the bullpens – the list goes on and on. The addition of a locker room with custom built lockers. We are trying to it where the excitement is visible."
The record doesn't show the team's progress but Coach Grinstead keeps working his team and himself.
"I'm very pleased and I'm the world's biggest competitor. We're competing day in and day out. We've had opportunity to win ball games that the school had never been in before. But it takes time to build that mansion, brick by brick. You're not going to build it in a day, it's going to take time. Pretty soon the ball is going to bounce our way and things will show on the scoreboard. We're going to continue to push and grow and learn."
On the field, Coach Grinstead has two assistants, Sabrina Green and Kaylin Lloyd. In what little time he has away from the field, Coach Grinstead continues to play travel softball himself across the south.
"If I'm not recruiting or coaching, I'm playing."
Determined to build a winner and challenge his team each day, Coach Grinstead may have his biggest turnaround challenge on his hands but they seem to be in very capable hands.