NICK JOHNSTON: At the end of the day, Scott brings excitement
Sat. January 26, 2013 at 10:58 p.m. | By Nick Johnston Sports Writer
Matt Scott was hired as Gadsden City's new head football coach Jan. 14
New Gadsden City football coach Matt Scott walked down to the front of the school’s auditorium and immediately apologized.
He didn’t like how he was dressed for the occasion, which was a meet-and-greet with the media and a few Titan supporters Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m probably not dressed appropriately for this situation,” said Scott, wearing an athletic warm-up suit as he talked about his vision for the Titan program.
A little while later he apologized again for not having his coat and tie on, and someone from the crowd said, “You look like a coach with that on.” Someone else quipped, “We don’t need another businessman in Gadsden.”
But that’s just it: Scott’s all business when it comes to football.
He had just wrapped up an entire day of meeting with football players at all three middle schools — Gadsden, Litchfield and Emma Sansom — that feed Gadsden City. He’s convinced that spotting and cultivating talent before it reaches the high school level is vital to total program success. It’s one of the key ingredients to the Titans’ hopes of being able to compete with the crème de la crème in the state of Alabama and win on the biggest of stages.
And at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
“At the end of the day” is Scott’s favorite cliché. It’s what he goes to when he wants to drive a point home. Things like, “At the end of the day, what we’re wanting to do is take this program to the next level.” Or, when referring to the middle school players, “At the end of the day, that’s the lifeblood of the program.”
Scott said he doesn’t know how much the previous coach, Joe Billingsley, was involved in developing talent in the middle schools. The fact is, it doesn’t matter now. In the two weeks since Scott was hired away from Hueytown, he’s been very complimentary of the “foundation” that was laid by Billingsley during the first seven years of the school’s existence.
But it’s time for a fresh perspective, and Scott certainly provides that.
Things are going to be different now, and he can only hope the system he’s developed in his 25 years of coaching brings what the self-described City of Champions desires most — a Gadsden City state high school football championship.
The question is whether Titan supporters will be patient enough to allow it happen.
Fans’ patience with Billingsley, who resigned in November, grew thin over the past couple of years, which is really unfair. All the guy did was take Gadsden City to seven straight playoff appearances and three region titles.
But, again, that’s all in the past. A new era began Jan. 14 with Scott, who’s going to bring in the same strength and conditioning program that Alabama uses and make several other changes. He also has nutrition and academic programs the Titans are expected to follow.
The thing is, those programs aren’t designed to be quick fixes or the magic potion that makes a state title appear. It’s going to take time, and even if Gadsden City was to — Gasp! — miss the playoffs in 2013, don’t take it as a sign of things to come. The ones who are affected most by something different are the players, who are going to be learning a completely new way of doing things.
And if the players are open to this change, big things could be ahead for the Titans. But it’s a total package deal that includes dedication to every aspect of Scott’s system. The strength and conditioning, nutrition and academic programs are mandatory — and discipline off the field is expected.
Scott made known what he expects of his players early in the first team meeting. He doesn’t have a list of rules with set consequences if they are broken because, as he learned from Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, the people who make rules followed by a specific discipline are people who don’t want to make tough decisions.
He expects his players to do things right, and if one does not he has no problem putting another player in his place.
“The thing about it is,” Scott said, “if you’re running a program that they’re excited about, they’ll walk that line because they don’t want to miss it.”
The Titans have a guy in charge who’s passionate about the game of football. And nobody’s expectations are higher than Scott’s. Billingsley was fond of saying the same thing about expectations.
Lofty expectations for the Titans are old hat, but a new era has dawned for the Gadsden City football program, and everyone’s looking forward to seeing what happens at the end of the day.
Times Sports Writer Nick Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.