Cato June has thought about a Bo Schembechler quote quite a bit during his coaching career: "For God's sakes," the legendary Michigan coach once said, "quit worrying about your next job. Just do the best you can at the job you have now, and the offers will come."
After June's playing career ended, the former Colts linebacker spent five years coaching at the high school level – including four at his prep alma mater, Anacostia High School in Washington D.C. From there, he spent four years at Howard, coaching running backs, safeties and linebackers. He made the jump to Massachusetts as outside linebackers coach in 2020, then was Bowling Green's defensive run game coordinator/outside linebackers coach in 2021.
But June didn't take those jobs with an eye on how he could be promoted out of them. He poured his energy into being present in each of them, hoping to make a difference with the young men he worked with both on and off the field.
"Everybody wants to win, but how else can I impact the people, the organization, the school? Somebody needs to be impacted by your presence," June said. "I think that's the goal every day."
And then the offer came. The Colts – the team that drafted June in 2003 – hired him as assistant linebackers coach in 2022. He went right back to work with the same approach he took to his previous gigs.
This week, another opportunity came thanks to his hard work: The Colts nominated June to participate in the 2023 NFL Coach Accelerator program, which will be held May 21-23 at the NFL Spring League Meeting in Minneapolis.
The Coach Accelerator program, which debuted in 2022, is focused on increasing exposure between diverse coaching talent and owners and executives from across the NFL. This year, 40 participants were nominated by teams, and were chosen based on possessing strong head coaching potential.
And June's approach to his job, and whatever his coaching future may hold, is sure to impress some of the folks he's able to network with in Minneapolis.
"(Climbing the coaching ladder) is not his mindset," Colts linebackers coach Richard Smith said. "His mindset is, let's capture the day, let's be the best guy I can possibly be, let me learn as much as I can and then he's happy with himself. And that's the way it should be."
June's emotional intelligence and genuine personality will stand out in the program, too.
"The only thing I've ever tried to do is be myself, share my experiences and try to reach each person the way they need to be reached," June said. "I learned that quickly as a high school coach — everybody's different, everybody has different needs."
Over the three-day program, June and 39 other coaches will not only have opportunities to network with decision-makers from other clubs, but will attend curated content sessions aimed at growing their leadership skills and knowledge of the business of football.
June is approaching the Coach Accelerator as an opportunity to "be a sponge," he said, and to grow as a coach – which will help the 2023 Colts be a better team. Because for June, team comes first – even during an opportunity to advance his own career.
"It's not just your own personal growth," June said. "I think that's always important, when you're part of the team — hey, you're there representing the Colts and then you come back and it's like man, this was awesome. This guy talked about this, now you can use it — how can we help grow this team? I think that's beneficial too.
"You can't be selfish."
Ultimately, June earned the opportunity to network and learn at the Coach Accelerator program by doing the same thing he's been doing during his coaching career – following Schembechler's advice, and not worrying about what may come next.
"He's a really good coach, I think he's got a chance to be a great coach," Smith said. "I'm happy for him to get this opportunity to learn from the experience and grow from the experience, but also for people to get to know him because he is a special person. I'm very happy that this organization wanted him to represent them. I think they couldn't have done a better job. Very classy individual, the organization is important to him. And I think he has a bright future."