May 13, 2013
By Al Prieto
1.) How many years have you been in coaching and at what age did you start coaching?
I have been coaching 11 years in high school. I started coaching high school at 22, but I actually coached a local youth baseball team when I was a 17 year old junior in high school. While in college at Ole Miss, I coached youth flag football, soccer, and baseball.
2.) What is the name of the first school you coached at? What other schools have you coached at?
I began my career at Northwest Rankin High School in Brandon, MS. I have also coached at Randolph Clay HS in Cuthbert, GA; Horn Lake HS in Horn Lake, MS; served as Head Coach and Athletic Director at Bolton High School in Alexandria, LA for the last 4 years and have recently taken over at Benton HS in Benton, LA.
3.) What made you get into coaching? Who or what influenced you the most?
I have always had a deep passion for sports. I began playing the quarterback position in junior high and have always felt I was meant to lead. I believe God called me to be a coach and to positively influence young men both on and off the field. I went to a small high school in Carthage, MS. Our 8th grade coach was also our high school Defensive Coordinator. Coach Johnny Barfield had a huge impact on my outlook on sports and really helped develop my leadership skills. He pushed me further than I ever thought I could physically go. He had this effect on me-I just never wanted to let him down. Even when he was hard on me, I knew it was only because he saw more in me than I saw in myself.
Seeing what an impact he made has driven me to build young men of character and create a long-lasting and far-reaching effect on the young men and young women I am (and have been) blessed to coach.
4.) Where did you go to high school? What sports did you play if any?
I went to Carthage High School in Carthage, MS. I was a three-year letterman in both football and baseball. I played basketball and ran cross-country for one year.
5.) Did you go to college?
I went to Ole Miss.
6.) Who are some of the best players you’ve ever coached?
I coached a running back named Jay Jones for two years at Horn Lake. Jay was a small (5’6″) RB who could run a 4.3 40-yd dash. He played 2 years of Juco ball in Mississippi and just finished his first spring at the University of South Alabama. He was one of the most explosive and dynamic players I have ever coached. Bakari Trotter was the most physical receive I coached. He was a tremendous blocker and explosive receiver at Horn Lake. I coached 2 linebackers at Northwest Rankin who were real football players. Elliot Marshall and Demarko Clanton anchored some of the best defenses I have been around. Both physical guys who really had a nose for the ball. Chris Clay was a great running back with great vision I coached at Randolph Clay. Curtis Marks at Bolton was an undersized linebacker, but was a defensive coach’s dream.
7.) What would you like to see changed in High School football?
I see such an emphasis put on wins and losses. I am the most competitive person alive, but even I can see the value of playing sports-win or lose. Competitive athletics provide numerous opportunities to develop so many different life skills. Truthfully, how many average sports fans can tell you who won the state championship in any classification 10 or 20 years ago. I wish more coaches would focus on the competitive side-winning and losing-as well as doing things the right way. We have a lot of guys who do it the right way and who really care about the kids. It really upsets me to see coaches who can’t see the opportunity they have and waste it by only worrying about winning.
8.) Are there any changes you would like to see in High School football that they have already changed in college ball?
I would like to see more rules and penalties match up on both levels. We have some good officials in high school, but a lot of them (as well as some coaches) get mixed up on which rules and which penalties are high school and which are college. Texas high schools play by NCAA rules, so the officials there are using the same rules on Friday nights they see called on Saturdays. I wouldn’t mind seeing all the major rules and penalties in NFHS and NCAA aligning to make it easier on our coaches, officials, and players.
9.) Do you think the brand of Louisiana football is different than anywhere else?
Louisiana plays some of the best high school football around. Obviously, LSU has been very successful over the last 10-15 years and has done so with a roster full of home-grown talent. What we are seeing now though, is how deep that home-grown talent is. Tech, ULM and ULL are all on the rise and are beginning to have more success. I think that says a lot about our high school football here and the talent all across the state.
10.) Do you feel like the offense/defense philosophies differ between North and South Louisiana?
I haven’t noticed any significant differences in offensive or defensive philosophies between North and South Louisiana. I think it differs more based on the talent and abilities of players at individual schools.
11.) Who is your favorite NFL player of all time and why?
I grew up watching Dan Marino and the “Marks Brothers”. I think he’s got to be the greatest NFL player to have never won a championship. I always admired his big arm and quick release. Also, because he never really had a great running game, teams knew he was going to be throwing the ball most of the time, yet he was still able to complete most of his passes. I just loved watching him play. I am also a huge Peyton Manning fan. I love the way he approaches the game. I love his intensity and preparation. And I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t mention a fellow Mississippian and the hardest working man in football, Jerry Rice. I love his dedication to his craft. My dad always said he could “catch a BB in the dark.” I enjoy watching RG3 play. I like the different things he brings to the QB position.
12.) Who is your favorite college or pro football coach and why?
Growing up watching the Dolphins, I always loved Don Shula. As I’ve matured in the coaching profession, I find myself rooting more for coaches than for specific teams, so it’s hard to name just one. I really like Jim Harbaugh as a coach (not so much as a player). I like the way Sean Payton approaches the game. I love the fact that Bill Parcells could step in any drill for any position and be confident. I admire what Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs brought to the game. On the college level, I always liked Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier (contrasting styles I know, but both good coaches). I think what Hugh Freeze was able to do at Ole Miss last year was incredible. I realize I might be a little biased on that one, but he is a coach who is unashamed of his Christianity and unafraid to coach in a way and live his life in a way that lets everyone know where his priorities lie. He has proven that you don’t have to be a big name coach to succeed in the SEC, but at the same time, he is becoming a big name coach.