If nothing else, David Wagner’s phone has been ringing a lot more in the last week than it normally had been.
It’s all part of the territory now for the new Winder-Barrow High School head football coach. Wagner, who had served the past several years as the defensive coordinator at cross county Apalachee High School, will look to build the WBHS Bulldoggs into the type of power the AHS Wildcats have been and continue to be in head coach Shane Davis.
“It’s been a lot of fun these past few days,” Wagner said. “Now, I’m ready to hunker down.” In a move which some may have not thought possible, Wagner is already settling into his new job noting he is thankful he and his family don’t have to move for it.
Wagner said he and Davis would often talk about the possibility of the former AHS defensive coordinator putting in for the position if it ever opened up.
“During those times, I was undecided,” Wagner said. “There were many different reasons and none of them had to do with Winder-Barrow High School or that job. It was mainly if I wanted to get in that role again.”
Wagner was a head coach for three years at a high school in Tennessee although he said it seems “like a lifetime again now.”
“I always though the Winder-Barrow job was a good one,” he said. “If I didn’t think it would be a position I could succeed in then I wouldn’t have entertained the thought of taking it.”
A big part of the reason Wagner considered it was the job would be in the county and school system he already worked and his family would not have to move.
“For anyone to get a promotion and maintain their local residence doesn’t happen often,” the new WBHS head coach said. “In the end, I didn’t want to not put in for the job and later regret it. I could have always decided later not to take it but I knew I would have to put in for it first.”
WBHS officials also felt Wagner was the right fit for them.
“After reviewing more than 100 resumes, selecting several individuals from those resumes and interviewing the candidates who met the qualifications we deemed essential to build our football program at Winder Barrow High School, we are fully confident that we have found the man who will meet the needs of our students, our school, and our community,” said principal Al Darby, who helped conduct the search.
WBHS athletic director Justin Grant concurred.
“During the interviews conducted with Coach Wagner, the characteristics we believe crucial to build our program were evident,” Grant said. “His experience as a head coach and assistant coach speaks for itself. He has been an integral part of successful programs during his career. He is dedicated to developing the student athlete; his weight programs have been recognized statewide, and he has shown proven leadership as a defensive coordinator over the past several years. He has a specific plan for each grade level outlining rigorous academic excellence to assist the students in high school and in college. During the interview process and contacts with several references, Coach Wagner’s integrity and passion for all students was obvious. He has a plan to develop not only his team, but to reach out to the youth teams in our cluster and create a program from the ground up.”
Wagner said he felt the interview went well but noted it had been so many years since he had interviewed for a head coaching position maybe he was misreading it.
“Personally, I felt the process would go well, but you never know who you are up against in the process,” Wagner said. “It’s not that you aren’t qualified but you never know the variables.”
Word began to circulate among the Barrow County football community last week that Wagner appeared to be the No. 1 choice to direct the Bulldogg program. Since he was already in the school system, all that was needed was for his transfer to be approved, which it was.
Michael Clark of WIMO Radio in Winder broke the story late Thursday afternoon. Wagner would be on The Red Zone, a show Clark co-hosts the following afternoon.
Internet sights which focus on high school athletics in Georgia also began getting hits about the hiring.
NEWS AT AHS
Wagner met with the Apalachee High School players Friday and said he was impressed with their support.
“I wish we weren’t in a day where things got out so quick,” he said. “With the Georgia Varsity Sports Vent, things get out there before you can address the people who matter. It was very emtional for me addressing the Apalachee players and it was very emotional for me. Friday was a very emotional day.”
Wagner is finishing up some duties at AHS this week and he said each day will bring forth even more emotions.
“Every player who has talked to me has wished me nothing but the best,” Wagner said of the Wildcat Nation. “I hope they win nine games and are in the playoffs every year.”
Wagner said he has made it clear he is not going to be the type of coach who suddenly hates Apalachee and wants them to go 0-10 each season.
“I told them if they want someone who wishes Apalachee to do poorly then I am not their guy,” Wagner said. “I will be someone on Friday nights around 11:30 who will be wondering how Shane and his team did. I believe we are one community and we can pull against each other when we play, but pull for each other the rest of the time.”
Wagner even talked of how one day he would love to see an 8-0 Winder-Barrow team facing an 8-0 Apalachee team with a region title on the line.
“Wouldn’t that be great?” he asked. “That would have to close the stadium down. That is what I would love to see happen to football in Barrow County. That would be great for everyone.”
Wagner is currently working on assembling a coaching staff at WBHS.
“It’s not like college where everyone gets swept out from the previous staff,” he said. “It depends on teaching slots and some of the previous coaches will want to stay. During the next couple of weeks this is going to be priority number one.”
Wagner said he has already been in contact with some coaching candidates for his staff at WBHS.
“It’s a process and one that I would like to have done within a couple of weeks although I realize that might be tough,” Wagner said. “It never matters how good of a coach you are, unless you have a good staff you aren’t going to succeed. That’s something Coach Davis stressed and I learned that from him.”
As far as offensive and defensive schemes, Wagner said it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Bulldoggs will run a 4-3 look next fall, similiar to what AHS has been running.
Offensively, Wagner said he will work with his offensive coordinator and also base the system around what best suits his personnel. It is not guaranteed at this point that WBHS will run the Wing-T as AHS does. There have been some Bulldogg players who have transferred who would have been key players in 2010.
The new head coach is looking at holding spring practice in May.
“That’s one of the things on my ‘to do’ list,” Wagner said. “I am going to work with Coach Darby and Coach Grant on it. I want to get the most kids out for practice that we can.
Wagner and his wife, Amanda, a native of Tennessee, are Barrow County residents and are the parents of daughter, Mackenzie, 7, followed by Will, 5 and younger brother Zac, who is 2.
“I just want to thank the administrators of both high schools; coach Shane Davis and principal David McGee at Apalachee for their support as well as principal Al Darby and Justin Grant at Winder-Barrow,” Wagner said. “These are great guys to work with and I am proud to be a part of their team. I met with my former team at Apalachee earlier to break the news and I am looking forward to meeting with my new team at Winder Barrow. I’m just ready to get to work.”
Work is now underway for Wagner as he looks to build the Bulldogg program into a playoff contender.