Rockdale County's three high school football coaches spoke about their upcoming season at the Rotary Club of Conyers on Thursday.
Third-year Salem Seminoles Coach John Starr, who grew up in Alabama and graduated from West Georgia College, talked about instilling a work ethic in his players to encourage them to become productive citizens and then delved in to his team's physical preparedness.
"Going back to spring practice our guys were really starting to 'buy-in,' starting to understand the work ethic, starting to put the time in the weight room and starting to understand how hard you have to work academically," Coach Starr said. "We count it as a success when our young men go beyond high school and are able to be productive citizens. That's not to say we aren't trying to win football games...but we are real excited about what we have coming back this year."
"We've got some pretty good sized kids - we have a freshman defensive lineman who is a good student and a good football player and about 6'2", 250 lbs," Starr said. "He is going to be one you are going to hear a lot about. We feel like we finally got this thing on the right track. Again, we may not win the ball games that many would like, but we are going to produce some great kids."
First year Rockdale High School Bulldogs Coach Venson Elder, who hails from DeKalb County and played football at the University of Alabama, said he jumped into an intense round of conditioning, running, weight lifting and studying as soon as he arrived in the summer.
"When the kids see something that works, they are going to get on your team then," Coach Elder said about his players, who he says have been very eager to learn. "You teach them something and make them want more. You don't throw all of it at them at the same time...you give them a piece here and a piece there."
"We have seniors coming back and I told them 'guys you have got to earn everything you get', just because you are a senior doesn't mean you are going to start," he said. "If you want to start you have to have leadership on the field and off the field." Coach Elder said this year's schedule "gives our kids the opportunity to grow and they can compete against these schools and on any given day anyone can be beat."
Heritage Patriots Coach Chad Frazier grew up in Macon and graduated from Valdosta State University. He is entering his sixth season at Heritage on the tail of two remarkable years.
"Las year we had the best season in school history," Coach Frazier said. "We won 10 games and made the playoffs for the first time ever in back-to-back years."
"I'm real excited about our senior class, probably the most mature group of kids that we have had since I've been at Heritage," he said". "Every year we talk about keeping the distraction out of our locker room and off our field. I feel like if we can keep those out of the way, we have a chance to be competitive and be successful. We have been very fortunate... the majority of our senior class has been with us since ninth grade and there is a great deal of leadership there and a great work ethic. They set an example for our younger kids on what is right and what to do and what is expected of them."
With five returning starters on offense and four on defense, Coach Frazier admitted there are some holes to fill but he is optimistic the younger players will step in.
"We have a very difficult schedule, but it's one that we like," Coach Frazier said. "We are going to go out every week and play as tough as we can and be very competitive, learn from our mistakes and get better each week. I'm looking forward to it. We have a great bunch of kids and parents surrounding us and a lot of resources we are trying to tap to continue to build our program."
Superintendent Rich Autry was on-hand to hear the coaches' discussions and applauded their efforts.
"Thank you to all the coaches, including your entire coaching staff," Autry said. "I was one of you and I realize the long hours and hard work that you, your staff and quite frankly your families commit to. These types of programs change the lives of our students."