A few weeks following from kidney transplant surgery, youth football coach Mike Haggard refused to miss his team’s final playoff games.
Although he was in the midst of recovery, he did not miss a playoff game and managed to make it to the sidelines to support his players as they captured a third consecutive title on Nov. 19. Among the players is Haggard’s son who is the team’s quarterback.
“I was so proud of my guys,” Haggard said. “I know it was especially tough on my son to see his dad and coach go through all that, but I was really proud to see how he handled the situation.”
Personal injury lawyer by day, football call player by night -Haggard, 46 of Pinecrest, has won two national championships coaching the RYAN Sports flag football team and led the Suniland Sundevils to three consecutive Miami Xtreme 12U Youth Football League titles.
After six years of coaching and guiding children ages 12 and under, in 2016 Haggard faced his biggest challenge: he had to fight for his life.
Diagnosed with a polycystic kidney disease, a genetic condition that leads to kidney failure, Haggard required a kidney transplant to survive. He received one on Oct. 6 from someone close to home –his brother-in-law. The kidney transplant saved his life and allowed him to return to the courtroom and coaching sidelines.
“It’s the ultimate gift – the gift of life,” Haggard said about his brother-in-law’s decision to donate a kidney.
Haggard’s brother-in-law did Allen Buckhalt says he had no doubt that he needed to help the man who is his family. .
“It was straight out of love,” Buckhalt said. “I consider him my real brother. It was not even a question. I turned to my wife, and I told her I wanted to get tested. I was approved at the end of August. We are family, and we take care of one another.”
Haggard is now back to his regular routine preparing for cases and football games.
His passion for football stems from when he played high school football for Palmer Trinity High School. He uses the same fundamental principles to be successful as a lawyer and then applies them to be an effective coach.
“As a trial lawyer, preparation is key,” Haggard said. “The more you prepare, the more your rewards. When I prepare for a case, I review dispositions and what moves my opposing lawyer might make. It’s the same coaching football except I review game film all day.”
In addition to instilling values such as hard work and preparation,, the father of two makes it a point to impart lessons not found in a playbook. Many of Haggard’s players come from regions such as, Richmond Heights, Perrine, and Homestead, which are neighborhoods that pose a number of challenges for young people.
Haggard managed to turn a life-threatening obstacle into a learning opportunity for his players to witness the meaning of perseverance.
“I showed them that you need to learn to respond to adversity,” he said. “I always want them to improve as people and players.”
Long-time friend and offensive line coach for Miami Xtreme Kelvin Durham believes Mike’s lessons are invaluable. He also said Haggard’s devotion to the team is unparalleled and his character provides a solid leader for the players to follow.
“I learned what it means to be great because of Mike Haggard,” Durham said. “He is so dedicated to these kids. I’ve never seen anything like it. I thank God that I was able to meet a person like Mike.”
Haggard’s dedication trickles down to the players who practice two hours a day Monday through Friday. Durham and Haggard now continue to add to their trophy case while impacting young lives.
Haggard says passion for the game is one of the traits a successful coach must possess, but even more paramount than hard work is to help young people see that life extends beyond the football field.
“You got to make it about more than just football.”