Trussville’s Ron Selesky named head coach of Arena Football League’s Cleveland Gladiators
By Chris Yow
TRUSSVILLE — Ron Selesky’s career in football has been anything but ordinary. From his high school playing days to coaching at the professional ranks, Selesky has dealt with quite a bit of adversity.
Selesky, who moved to Trussville with his family 11 years ago, was recently named the head coach of the Arena Football League’s Cleveland Gladiators. The Gladiators are owned by the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert.
The journey to this point in Selesky’s career, however, could easily be described as rocky.
As a player, Selesky enjoyed a short stint in the NFL, including one regular season with the Minnesota Vikings in 1987. But as a high school player, Selesky wasn’t even a starter. In fact, he didn’t even start playing the game until he was a junior.
“As a senior, I was on a senior-laden roster, and I didn’t even start,” he recalled. “I got to play a lot, but I wasn’t a starter.”
That didn’t stop him from achieving his goals of playing a the next level, though.
“I knew I wanted to try and play somewhere in college, and people thought I was crazy, but I didn’t care,” he said.
After some interest from a few schools, he wound up in a Chicago suburb at North Central College in Illinois. He became a 4-year starter for the Cardinals, and then found his way to a tryout for the Vikings.
“Everybody thought I was crazy for trying to play in the NFL,” he said. But during the players’ strike of 1987, Selesky made his way onto the roster, and even stuck around after the strike due to injuries. He then bounced around a few training camps, but was credited with a full regular season.
Following his time in those camps, he signed to play for the AFL’s Tampa Bay Storm, but two weeks before camp, he received a letter that essentially ended his playing career and notified him he would not be signed by the team.
“I thought that was it for me in terms of football. I had been married a year, and I had a good job with FedEx, but I was bored,” he said. “I had been helping my agent find some players, and in 1997 he met Arizona Rattlers’ head coach Doug Kay. Kay and another AFL coach — Gene Nudo — helped Selesky obtain an unpaid internship to work for the Storm in Tampa Bay.
“That’s how it all started,” Selesky said. “Then 1998 was my first full season, and we made the Arena Bowl.”
Ironically, the quarterback of that team was Gardendale native Peter Tom Willis, but the Storm were defeated soundly by in-state rival Orlando in the championship game.
Selesky was given an opportunity in 2001 to be the head coach of the Louisville Fire of the arenafootball2 league. He coached one season there before making his way to Albany, NY, where he found great success and led his team to a 13-3 record, and was named the af2 Coach of the Year.
Following that season, Selesky moved on to the head coaching position of the AFL’s Buffalo Destoryers, but managed just a 5-11 record among many ownership problems with the franchise. A stint at defensive coordinator turned into an interim head coaching job with the Carolina Cobras, where he went 3-3 in a situation that left him with one assistant coach and one intern as his coaching staff. Selesky joined Chris Spielman in 2005 as the defensive coordinator of the Columbus Destroyers.
That’s when Selesky decided he was finished. The football life was over, and he’d taken a job with Shaw Industries — a carpet company based in Dalton, Ga.
“It was to the point they’d already sent me the laptop,” he said. “Then I called (Steeldogs owner) Scott (Myers) to recommend someone else for their head coaching job, and he said, ‘Well, what about you? Would you be interested in coaching our team?’
“At first I told him no.”
But Selesky couldn’t finish his coaching career the way it ended in Columbus, and decided he would take the job.
“I told my wife — and it upset her a little — that I had to go back and do this. I couldn’t leave coaching on the terms I ended on,” he said.
Selesky, despite front office issues, led the Steeldogs to a pair of 7-9 seasons and a playoff berth in 2007 before falling on the road to top seeded Rio Grande Valley in the last game of the Steeldogs’ existence.
From there, he was the defensive coordinator in Grand Rapids where they went to the conference championship. The AFL suspended operations for a year in 2009, and he was a teacher and coach at Hewitt-Trussville Middle School during that year.
Again, though, the AFL came calling, and in 2010 Selesky was the Director of Player Personnel with the Cleveland Gladiators, and he held that position for two years. He was then named Defensive Coordinator in 2013. Selesky and head coach Steve Thonn led the Gladiators to the 2014 Arena Bowl, and he was named AFL Assistant Coach of the Year
While he travels the country — and even spent a year in the Canadian Football League in 2015 — his family has stayed here in Trussville and have made the city home.
Selesky’s son Brandt was an All-Tribune team member while at Hewitt-Trussville and now plays collegiately at Southeast Missouri State. He has three daughters: Madelyn, Erin and Mallorie, all who attend Trussville City Schools, and has been married to his wife Michelle for 25 years.
“I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth, simply because she has put up with me with all this football stuff. We’re very close-knit family,” he said.
Trussville has become home, and he said it likely will be forever.
“This is has been home. We just decided that it made more sense to make this home base. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than having to uproot everybody,” he said. “Trussville is home, and it’ll be home for the foreseeable future.”
Pleasing Selesky isn’t hard, though. Despite all the adversity he’s faced, he’s still spent a lifetime around the game of football, and that’s a pretty good life according to him.
“I’m a simple guy; faith family and football — that’s our life.”