By GORDON GLANTZ
In the summer of 2011, Ernest Hadrick III – better known as Tre Hadrick – decided to line up alongside many of his old football teammates at Norristown Area High School and tackle a new challenge: Helping to guide next generation from their hometown to level the playing field in the game of life.
“It was just to help the kids,” he recalled about the group that would come to be known as the Norristown Men of Excellence (www.nmoe19401.org), which achieved 501c3 status as a non-profit organization. “I basically brought the group together. Our mission was a collective effort.”
Considered “core” members are: Sheldon Gray, Milt Williams, Hakim Jones, Troy Swittenburg, Percy Jones, Kirk Berry, Doug White, Brian Webster, Don Milligan and Kenrick Marsh.
“We met in August of 2011, talking about giving back and making a difference. From there, we continued to grow and put things into place.”
As for expanding the group: “We wanted the best from Norristown. We had a lot of guys, maybe 30 or 40. Some were from out of state but were still doing good things.”
One of those was Alan Grantham, who graduated from Norristown in 2001 and has degrees from Maryland and NYU.
“He supports NMOE financially each year with our Scholarship Fundraiser,” said Hadrick, who referes to Grantham as: “From Willow Street to Wall Street.”
Beyond lofty goals about achievement and greatness, there was a bottom line.
“Just consistency,” Hadrick continued. “Our consistency allowed us to have success.
“Our mission was to give back in any way we could in any way we could. We opened up our visions and broadened our focus.”
Whether it is at the annual banquet or one of the other myriad of programs run by the group, the guidance counselor at Eisenhower Middle School sometimes needs to stop and realize how far it has come in such a short period of time.
“It’s like, ‘wow, we really made it happen,” said Hadrick, who played college football at Auburn and then North Carolina A&T and just completed his first season as an assistant coach at Conestoga High. “It’s been a blessing, a special feeling.”
And the success has allowed Hadrick to make the decision to no longer serve as the NMOE president, effective Dec. 31, with Berry taking over.
“My tenure is up as president,” he confirmed, adding that the term was only meant to be for two years. “I am still very much going to remain a part of the organization. I still want to see things continue with the original vision.”
Now in the process of putting it all into perspective, Hadrick believes he was given the tools to give back while at North Carolina A&T, where he says he “learned through my fraternity guided me to adopt some of the key organizational skills” that helped create the foundation of NMOE, Inc.
“It would be unjust of me not to mention the impact my fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., has had on me: Hard work, perseverance and enthusiasm are some of the tools they encourage,” he said.
Hadrick, the 35-year-old married dad of one, called stepping away from top post “perfect timing” and vowed to remain active, saying he will “still be in the background.”
The move comes in a year of change for Hadrick, who was given the chance to coach high school-level athletes by former Plymouth Whitemarsh standout running back Keyente “Key” Moore at PaSwag (paswag.net), which is best described as the football equivalent of AAU basketball.
From there, Marquis Weeks, who was forming a staff at Conestoga, where he rewrote the records books as a running back before moving on Virginia, reached out to Hadrick to join his staff.
It meant a long-awaited opportunity, but also at a school other than Norristown, which was an initial shock to his sensibilities.
But once he commits, he commits.
And so he did.
The result was an “amazing experience,” that he looks to build upon.
“It was challenging,” said Hadrick, whose job was to coach running backs and linebackers. “I love Norristown. I love the blue and white. It’s nothing I can fake. At the same time, I like to help kids.
“It was, overall, a great experience. The kids all bought into the system. Coaching is a passion. I love sports. It’s part of my nature. It’s what I understand.”
While the NMOE had a sports aspect to it, with lacrosse and football clinics, it was as much about life coaching for youth as it was anything else.
Other programs include Ted Talks, essay contests with cash prizes, turkey drives, after-school programs, fundraisers for the two high school scholarship winners that receive $1,000 and an iPad mini.
It all began with that goal in mind. Easier said than done, but it got done.
Hadrick remembers being told he “looked nervous” before the first banquet, and he admits that his biggest fear was not speaking as much as it was “letting people down.”
He added: “We had higher standards, higher goals. We set the bar high.”
And they stayed consistent under his guidance.
“I always felt that we could pull it off,” he said. “We’ve been blessed with people doing great things in Norristown.
“I am pleased, and my time is up, as of the 31st of December. Hopefully, my efforts left an impact and that I set a foundation.”
Those hopes became reality when, at the first meeting after Hadrick was no longer president, he was presented with an award.
“Shocked, suprised and humbled,” he said. “I didnt see this coming at all. I’m very thankful and appreciative of this award.”