By Joe Scalzo
As an assistant coach at Ursuline, Kevin Cylar has spent the last eight years making a name for himself, even if a lot of people still can’t pronounce it.
“Yeah, it was always a problem through elementary school,” said Cylar, chuckling. “I thought about changing the spelling [of the first letter] to a ‘K’ but my mom wasn’t going for that.”
Cylar (pronounced “Kylar”) was approved as Liberty’s head football coach on Monday by the school’s board of education, but while his name may be unfamiliar to some, his face isn’t. Cylar has spent the past few years as a substitute teacher in Liberty’s school system, impressing the school’s teachers and administrators with his personality and his leadership skills.
“Every teacher wants Kevin to substitute for them,” said Liberty superintendent Stan Watson. “He relates well to kids and children of all ages are naturally attracted to him.
“Beyond the Xs and Ox, which he’s strong at obviously because he was part of three state championships at another Division V school, you add that ability to relate well and work well with students and he was the best fit for us.”
Cylar, a 1991 East High graduate, coached defensive backs and wideouts at Ursuline, which won three straight Division V state titles from 2008-10. He replaces Brian Jones, who led the Leopards to a 9-3 record in his lone season as head coach before stepping down earlier this month.
“This [being a head coach] is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Cylar, a YSU graduate. “Working with Coach [Dan] Reardon, Coach [Larry] Kempe, Coach [Rollen] Smith and Coach [Brad] Turnbull gave me a lot of confidence. Those guys are all-world coaches and I picked up something from each and every one of them.”
Kempe, Ursuline’s head coach, said Cylar’s communication skills set him apart.
“He does an excellent job with kids, making sure they understand what’s expected of them,” Kempe said. “He’s been very straight-forward with me about his ambitions [to take the Liberty job]. He’s a very loyal person. He’s loyal to the guys he coaches with, he’s loyal to his players and he wants every player to excel to the best of his ability.”
Cylar said he plans to retain several Liberty assistants — his former East coach, Jerron Jenkins, is on the Leopards’ staff — but will also bring in some of his own coaches. He plans to taper his offensive and defensive approach to his personnel, but Leopard fans should expect a fast-paced, no-huddle offense.
“We’re behind the 8-ball because there’s not a lot of time before the season opener against Salem,” he said. “It’s gonna come down to personnel and if the kids can do it.
“If not, we’ll use some of what they were doing last year until they can pick up my system.”
While Cylar’s oldest son, Kevin Jr., played at Ursuline, his other two children — son Zane and daughter Payten — attend Liberty schools. Cylar said he plans to go back to YSU to get his master’s degree in counseling.
“I grew up around the Liberty area and I’ve taught in the Liberty school system, but it never entered my mind that I’d be leaving my post [at Ursuline] to coach there,” he said. “But when you get the opportunity to be a head coach at a premier school like Liberty, you’ve got to be crazy not to want it.”