It is almost mid-October and former Arizona defensive line coach Vince Amey, an ASU great, was at a field Sunday coaching his son Myles, a tight end, defensive end and linebacker at Ironwood Ridge, in a baseball game.
Amey coached at first base at Curtis Park in a Kino Baseball Fall League game while his son, a third baseman, was on the base paths. Myles, a junior, has yet to play a football game this season — has not even put on the pads because of COVID-19 restrictions — but is a few games into the Nighthawks’ fall baseball schedule.
COVID-19 has thrown everything out of whack, but the Ameys are making the most of their opportunities.
“He projects more as a baseball prospect — he has great hands at third base,” Amey said. “It’s funny because they weren’t throwing the ball that much in football. And then in the past week in practice, they started throwing the ball to him, and he was catching everything.
“Now, all of a sudden, he is the quarterback’s best friend. They’ve been slinging the rock, and he’s been catching everything. I’ve got coaches coming to me saying, ‘He’s got some good hands.’ I told them, ‘I’ve been trying to tell you that for the longest.'”
Amey can be frank with Ironwood Ridge football coach James Hardy and the offensive assistants because he is part of the staff. The four-year letterman who played at defensive end with the Sun Devils from 1994 to 1998 coaches the linebackers and defensive ends for the Nighthawks.
“It’s been an honor and a blessing to be able to coach my son and watch him grow and develop,” Amey said.
Amey must leave his son and the rest of his family this weekend to spend at least a month at San Antonio coaching in The Spring League’s fall season that is administered by the XFL.
Amey will be part of a staff of one of the six teams playing at San Antonio in the season that goes through Nov. 18 before the championship. The Spring League was created by the XFL to give players another opportunity to build up their game film and impress professional football teams in the NFL, CFL and XFL.
Amey was hired as the defensive line coach for the XFL’s Los Angeles Wildcats, who played five games before the league was shut down in April because of COVID-19. He was formerly the defensive line coach for the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) last year before that league folded for financial reasons prior to completing its inaugural season.
He was contacted last week by the XFL about the coaching opportunity in San Antonio.
“My son and I are a little … not upset … but sad right now because we were knee-deep into practice at Ironwood Ridge and looking forward to the season, but now I will have to leave for six weeks and I’ll catch the tail end of Ironwood Ridge’s season,” Amey said.
The fall schedule for Southern Arizona public schools was released last week with Ironwood Ridge’s seven-game season going from Oct. 30 to Dec. 12.
The coaching position with Ironwood Ridge is his second stint in the Tucson area after serving as the defensive coordinator with Marana High School in 2018, one season after he was not retained by Kevin Sumlin at Arizona after Sumlin replaced Rich Rodriguez.
Amey coached under Rodriguez from 2012 to 2017 as an assistant strength and conditioning coach, defensive analyst and defensive line coach.
Prior to his arrival in Tucson, he served as defensive line coach at Scottsdale Chaparral, the 2011 Arizona state champions.
He also had two years of coaching experience at Tempe McClintock and Mesa Westwood and three years as defensive coordinator at Phoenix St. Mary’s. Amey also served as the defensive coordinator of the Stockton Lightning in the 2009 Arena League season.
He could have returned to the Phoenix area after leaving the Arizona program, but he has decided to remain in Tucson and raise his kids here with his wife Kelley.
“I love Tucson,” Amey said. “People have been trying to get me back to Phoenix, but I love Tucson.”
While he was coaching Myles on Sunday at Curtis Park, his 10-year-old twins Jackson and Dallas sat with his parents, who made the trip from Phoenix to watch Myles play.
By the sight of Jackson and Dallas it is obvious they are sons of a former NFL defensive lineman. Chances are their names will become well known in these parts as they grow under their father’s tutelage — much like Ironwood Ridge’s football coaches are realizing Myles’ potential.
“They are going to be football players,” Amey said of his twins. “I didn’t let Myles play until he was in the eighth grade. I also want them to develop. They are going to be multi-sport athletes.
“Them two having each other? They’re always fighting. They like basketball and other sports but they’re so rugged, they are going to be football players.”
After the XFL season ended abruptly, Amey turned to coaching his sons to bide his time over the summer.
As time went on, he started to train other youths. Eventually, he trained as many as 20 players in Tucson and Phoenix. Gilbert Higley coach Eddy Zubey, a good friend of his, enlisted his help to train his linemen two days a week during the summer. In two other days during the week, he trained players from Marana and Ironwood Ridge.
“After Covid hit, everybody was sitting around the house, and I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s go to the park,’ and I just started training my boys,” Amey said. “It was funny because at first I didn’t know how to approach it, but then I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to do what I do best,’ and I was getting on them.”
As hard as Amey makes his sons work to become physically prepared, Myles said his father’s coaching of the mental aspect of competition is just as beneficial.
“He really keeps me focused and not get distracted,” Myles said. “He told me if I want to play at the highest level I can’t get any distractions. He’s been really helping me a lot.”
Amey also tries to separate sports from their family time at home, but Myles said that is not always the case — not because of Amey but Myles is always trying to pick his dad’s brain.
“He doesn’t talk about (sports) a lot at home, but I try to bring it up,” Myles said with a smile.
A few minutes later, Myles hit a bloop single to left-center field and was at first base with his father standing nearby — yet another father-son coaching opportunity.
“As long as he continues to do well in school, that’s the most important thing,” Amey said. “As long as he continues to grow and develop like he’s doing, he has the potential to go somewhere and do something.”
High school baseball fall league action at Curtis Park this afternoon. @AthleticsIrhs junior 3B Myles Amey, son of former Arizona D-line coach and ASU great Vince Amey, at the plate.@AllSportsTucson#recognizeouryouth pic.twitter.com/6oPWEwQ0Jf
Ironwood Ridge is one of 18 high school teams competing in the KBL’s fall league. A total of 67 teams are participating from age divisions 10U-11U, 12U wood bat, 13U, junior and school high school prep divisions.
KBL director Bill Leith added that the upcoming Michael Acevedo Foundation Tournament (Oct. 24-25) and American Heroes Veterans Tournament (Nov. 7-11) at the Kino Sports Complex will each consist of 16 or more high schools.
In those tournament games, teams will be standard high school rules.
In the fall league presently, competition is six innings with teams having three outs or six batters (whatever comes first) in their half of the inning without scores tabulated. Leith considers it an instructional league.
Mountain View junior varsity coach Roy Busby is coaching the team known as the Red Raiders, which is comprised of Mountain Lions varsity players.
“This fall league is so important,” Busby said. “We took 5 1/2 months off (because of COVID-19) so this is so important for their development. We have protocols for Covid and the kids are doing everything that is being asked of them so we can be out here.
“I told them, ‘Look, if you don’t do this, we will not be out here.’ It’s been wonderful having them back out here. They’ve been working so hard.”
Here are interviews of some Myles’ Ironwood Ridge teammates, all of them Class of 2022 players:
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.