Byron Brother & Sister Teaming Up Once More

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

October 23, 2018

When it was announced Sunday night that Byron was included in the Division 6 playoff bracket, it wasn’t a surprise for the 5-4 Eagles – but it did provide new opportunities.

An opportunity to play another game. An opportunity to avenge a Week 1 defeat against Flint Hamady. An opportunity to stay together for at least one more week as a team.

In the Marvin household, it provided one other unique opportunity: a chance for senior TJ and his younger sister Sarah, a sophomore, to be teammates on the Eagles’ offensive and defensive lines. Sarah Marvin was a captain on the Eagles’ junior varsity team this year, and is among a group of players moving up to the varsity for the postseason.

“That’s awesome to be able to play football with your sister,” TJ Marvin said. “But to play the same positions and not have to go easy, it’s good, because I can still get a good look.”

It’s the second straight year the Marvins have had this opportunity, and in 2017 they actually were able to line up next to each other late in the Eagles’ loss to Ithaca.

When it comes to practice, being on the same field is nothing new as Byron’s varsity and JV teams often practice together. That means brother and sister – who both play defensive end and offensive tackle -- not only share a field, but also get to square off throughout the season.

“It’s fun,” TJ Marvin said. “It’s cool to be up against your sibling. Caliber of player wise, she lines up just like all the other guys, so I’m still getting a good look. It’s not much different.”

The Marvins get to spend plenty of time together athletically, as both are also throwers on the track & field team, along with Sarah’s twin sister, Becky. Sarah and Becky also get to play basketball for their mother, Theresa, who is the Byron girls varsity basketball coach.

“Everyone in my family knows about throwing,” Sarah said. “All of the sports – you can go home and talk about it, and everyone in your family understands.”

Football is also a family thing, but it’s something special TJ and Sarah share. They started playing while she was in first grade and he was in third, and often times found themselves not only as teammates, but also lined up next to each other on the offensive line.

Starting in the male-dominated sport was something Sarah didn’t think twice about.

“I don’t know if it was something that so much drew me to it. It was just that all of my boy cousins always played,” Sarah Marvin said. “I have (two younger cousins, two younger brothers), an older brother and an older cousin, and we would always rough house.”

Theresa Marvin said her daughter has always loved the game -- whether it be watching or playing -- and became a student of it. TJ agreed.

“Sometimes I’ll give her tips and stuff, but she is very athletically smart,” TJ Marvin said. “She knows the game, watches a lot of football and she’s very good at big picture plays and seeing what’s going on. Any sport, really, but especially football where there is so much going on, she really analyzes the game.”

While they started playing at the same time, TJ does have plenty of experience he can pass onto his younger sister. Injuries kept him off the field for the majority of his freshman and sophomore seasons, but the 6-foot-3, 235-pound two-way starter was an all-conference selection as a junior. He also is a varsity captain this season.

Sarah Marvin already has established herself as an all-state athlete, finishing third this spring at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 track & field championships in the discus and shot put. She was also an honorable mention all-state selection in basketball during her freshman year.

Throwing appears to be her future as an athlete, and continuing to play football is something they’re taking year by year.

“All through my freshman year I was dead set on it, that I’m going to play all four years,” Sarah Marvin said. “I think that’s changed a little bit. I had a kind of close call where a kid went to make a tackle and I was behind our running back, and he fell right into my knee. So that’s the main thing, is not getting hurt.”

Worrying about getting injured, however, has nothing to do with Sarah’s gender.

“Sometimes I worry about it, but I don’t worry about her anymore than I would other guys on the field,” TJ Marvin said. “I worry about it a little bit with her coming up on varsity where there are much bigger players and it’s a little more intense, but I know what she can do physicality wise and the kind of athlete she is. I worry about her getting hurt, but I worry about every one of my teammates getting hurt.”

Sarah is simply a member of the team, and she says that’s something that resonates through the program.

“Within my grade level and even the grade older, since I’ve played since the first grade, I think they’re just used to it -- we’re definitely just regular teammates,” she said. “They don’t treat me any different than the other kids; they’re just out there to play football. I’d probably be annoyed if they didn’t hit me as hard as they hit everyone else.”

Despite that, the Marvin siblings realize their situation is unique, and they feel fortunate to be able to experience playing together for at least one more week.

“(Getting on the field together) would be a really cool thing to do,” Sarah Marvin said. “Especially in his senior year.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) TJ, left, and Sarah Marvin take the field for Byron’s varsity and junior varsity teams, respectively, this season. (Middle) TJ and Sarah first teamed up nine years ago when TJ was in 3rd grade and Sarah in 1st. (Photos courtesy of the Marvin family.)

Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

July 10, 2024

CJ Nightingale's family values, small-town upbringing and Christian faith steered the Mendon native into a career coaching college football.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosNightingale, a 2010 Mendon High School graduate, is busily preparing for his first season as Belhaven University's eighth football coach. He was officially named the Blazers' head coach seven months ago, on Jan. 1.

Belhaven, a Division III school located in Jackson, Mississippi, competes in the USA South Athletic Conference.

Nightingale credits his love of coaching to his father Chris Nightingale and grandfather Charles Nightingale.

"It all started with my dad and grandfather. At one time they were both involved in coaching, and their general love for sports wore off on me," CJ Nightingale said.

Once CJ reached high school, his interest in athletics only intensified thanks to several people who made a big impact on him.

"I had the most wonderful experience attending school and participating in Mendon athletics,” Nightingale said. “We didn't always have the better athletes, but we were successful because of all the time and commitment put in by our coaches, teachers, administration along with parental and community support. Success is the result of many people who focus on the same cause."

Nightingale lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Mendon, earning four varsity letters in all three sports. He was named the St. Joseph Valley League's MVP in all three sports his senior year, and Mendon earned league titles in all three during Nightingale's senior year as well.

As a starting quarterback and defensive back his sophomore year, Nightingale led Mendon to the 2007 Division 7 football championship with the Hornets' 20-0 win over Traverse City St. Francis. Nightingale still holds the state record for career interceptions with 27.

Mendon had finished the 2006 season 3-6. A losing season remains rare in Mendon, and Nightingale stated it fueled the Hornets' title run the following season.

"I think losing is more difficult in football than in any other sport because of how much work goes into preparing for a season,” Nightingale recalled. “We were a very young team in 2006 and got punched in the mouth. It wasn't the best feeling, but it was a real learning experience and served as a big driving force that next season.

"All the hard times we endured the previous year served as a byproduct for our success in 2007. That team was unselfish, and not one player on the team cared who got the stats or accolades."

At Mendon, Nightingale played for legendary coach John Schwartz in football, David Swanwick in basketball and Glen Samson in baseball.

Lessons from Schwartz – a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame – and Samson have especially stuck with Nightingale into adult life and his own coaching career.

"Coach Schwartz had a way of getting everyone on the same page not just on the field, but he taught you how to be the best version of yourself off the field in every-day life. Coach Samson knew how to get his players in the right positions on the diamond to make us successful," Nightingale said.

"The environment at Mendon solidified my desire to become a coach and teacher. The best leaders are also the best teachers, and when you are surrounded by people like that it makes a big difference."

Nightingale attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where he lettered in football four years as a defensive back and return specialist. During Nightingale's career, the Thunder posted a combined record of 34-8 and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs when he was a freshman.

After graduating college, Nightingale taught history and spent two years as the varsity football coach at Richmond High School in Indiana. In 2016 he secured his first collegiate coaching job at Greenville University (Ill.) as a defensive backs coach, where he spent one season. He then served as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Indiana Wesleyan University beginning in 2017 before returning to his alma mater Wheaton in 2019 as the Thunder's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. Nightingale coached 24 all-conference players, 10 all-region performers and seven All-Americans over his four seasons at Wheaton, and the Thunder made the Division III playoffs all four years.

The head football coaching position at Belhaven became available in December 2023 when previous coach Blaine McCorkle moved on to Division 1 Northwestern State (La.). Nightingale applied and went through a three-week interview process before being selected as the program’s next head coach.

"I truly feel like God has called my wife Shanel and I and our family here for a reason. We are going to pour into Belhaven as deeply as we can and see what life brings us,” CJ Nightingale said. “As a college football coach, you have the unique chance to pour into your players spiritually, academically, athletically and socially. That's what is really special about this profession."

Belhaven's program has enjoyed a lot of success, especially the past three seasons with a combined 24-7 record, including a 9-2 finish last fall.

"I am very fortunate to be taking over a strong program here at Belhaven. You don't sustain success, but rather you must be able to build on it," Nightingale said. "We are excited about this season after a great spring. This group of coaches and players got a lot done these past six months. We have had a lot of guys here on campus all summer working to get better. There are lot of goals in front of us that haven't been achieved yet. Two of those goals are to go undefeated in conference play and host a playoff game.”

CJ and Shanel have three children, including 5-year old daughter Charlotte, 3-year old son Trey and 14-month old daughter Coco. They are expecting a fourth child in mid-September.

2024 Made In Michigan

June 28: E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

PHOTOS (Top) At left, Mendon’s CJ Nightingale (2) celebrates during his team’s 2007 championship win over Traverse City St. Francis at Ford Field; at right Nightingale is pictured with his wife Shanel and children Charlotte, Trey and Coco. (Middle) Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. (Family photo courtesy of CJ Nightingale.)