BRADENTON -- Peter Warrick says Paul Maechtle is a person who would give you the clothes off his back. Adrian McPherson calls Maechtle one of the most honest people he has ever met.
The two former Southeast High superstars describe a side of Maechtle that a lot of people in world outside of football don't know.
Maechtle will coach his last game Friday after 33 years as Southeast head football coach in a career that is filled with accolades and near unparalleled success.
There is another side of Maechtle that is perhaps more heroic that few know about because he never talks about himself.
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When his rival, Sam Sirianni, long-time head coach at Fort Myers High, was dying of cancer, Maechtle often visited him until the end. When Hurricane Charley devastated Punta Gorda, the home of another rival, Charlotte High, Maechtle went down there on his own time as a volunteer to help repair the homes that were destroyed.
But he didn't just repair homes. He repaired the lives that some of his players found hard to navigate at times.
When Warrick and McPherson hit some rough bumps in the road after high school, he was there for them offering whatever help he could provide.
Warrick was the fourth overall pick in the 2000 Na
tional Football League draft after finishing an All-American career at Florida State University that culminated in a national title. McPherson is the only player in state history to be named Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball and is one of the most prolific passers in state history.
Warrick is the highest NFL draft pick in Manatee County history.
They were icons, but also human and say Maechtle always let them know he would be there in time of need.
To them Maechtle was more than a coach who won multiple state championships and was inducted into Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Despite their on-field success, Warrick and McPherson had some troubles off the field after walking through the graduation line at Southeast.
They both feel a sense of gratitude that the coach remained in their lives.
"Here I am one day in training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals, done with FSU and long done with Southeast and I look up and see coach Maechtle there," Warrick recalled. "It put a smile on my face. He is still supporting me after all these years. With a lot of other people you leave them and never see them again. It wasn't like that with him."
In 1999, Warrick was America's hero and the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Out of nowhere his life came to halt when he was charged with receiving clothes at an unauthorized discount in the infamous Dillard's Department Store caper.
Warrick was suspended and his chances of winning the Heisman were gone. His life was crushed, but Maechtle was there to help him pick up the pieces.
"Coach Maec told me that is how things work in life; that every day is not cookies and cream," Warrick said. "He said as a player and a person you can sit there and pout or do something, that you if you want to be successful you have to work through those days."
Warrick and McPherson say they saw more than just a coach during their time at Southeast. They saw a person who really cared and wanted them to be a success off the field after high school.
"He was like my coach at FSU, Bobby Bowden. I looked at them the same way. They were not just great coaches, but great people," Warrick said. "I looked at coach Maec like a father and respected everything he said and his knowledge of football. We were young boys when we first got to Southeast and he taught us to be men. He sat down and talked to us and would give you the clothes off his back."
McPherson says what most people don't know is that he initially didn't want to play football at Southeast, but instead concentrate on basketball.
"I fell in love with him because he was such a good person and really started playing football more for him than for me," McPherson said. "He always had an open-door policy. He was always honest and never let me get bigger than the team and I always respected him for that. He was there for me during the tough times.
"I felt like he taught me how the game is always bigger than you and tried to instill in us the belief that if you work harder than the man next to you you can be successful. It is sad to see him go."
Brett Timmons, who played on Southeast's state championship teams with Warrick in 1993 and '94, says he finds himself today as head coach at Out-Of-Door-Academy doing many of the things he learned from Maechtle as a player.
"Coach Maechtle always gave speeches to get you fired up and I found myself saying some of the same things," Timmons said. "What people don't realize is coaches spend more time with the kids than their parents and he was always a positive influence."
Many former players are expected to be in attendance Friday night when Southeast plays host to Palmetto in the final game of Maechtle's career.
It is relationships that Maechtle covets.
"The most satisfaction I get comes from the players who come back and talk about some of the things they learned here," Maechtle said. "The big thing (in coaching) is the relationships you build among the players and the coaches you worked with through the years. They are part of the family when they graduate, and when they come back that means a lot."
One of Maechtle's highest compliments came from long-time assistant coach Brian McKnight, who talked about how Maechtle took care of a former coach who was diagnosed with cancer and living alone.
"He drove him to Tampa for his treatments and sat with him and would go over to his house at night to make sure he had everything he needed. The only coach I would compare him with is John Wooden," McKnight said.