The state’s most desirable high school football job wasn’t so desirable a decade ago
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of Sunday stories based on AL.comanonymous offseason survey of Alabama high school football coaches.
When Mark Freeman left Spanish Fort in 2015 to take over as head football coach at Thompson High School in Alabaster, he admits it wasn’t among the best landing spots he would have normally considered.
“It was a challenge and I knew it was a challenge, but I also knew I had people by my side who would make it possible for us to succeed,” Freeman said this week. “I remember in the first interview I said we were going to win championships. I believed him.
“Honestly, I felt like it was a move from God to me, and he will never put you in a situation and give you a platform to spread his message and witness to others. I believe him. firmly.
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Freeman took over a Thompson program that had won 10 of its previous 50 games under three head coaches. Over the past seven years, Freeman has won 72 games and the last three Class 7A state championships.
Thompson’s job — a job few people probably wanted a decade ago — is now the most sought-after high school head coaching job in the state, according to AL.comanonymous survey of coaches. Twenty-seven percent of the 75 coaches who responded ranked Thompson No. 1 because it easily edged out Hoover and Gulf Shores as desirable destinations.
“For me, it’s the most desirable job and I love it, but I never really go to work,” Freeman said. “Every day I come to this school is a blessing because I’m surrounded by great people. They allowed me to bring in coaches and teachers that I knew were good people and would be successful, and the kids bought into what we wanted to do. It doesn’t guarantee success and state championships, but it does create a great environment. Our culture, our roots and our character is something that I am extremely proud of.
Freeman credits much of the credit for the success of Thompson’s football program to Alabaster City Schools Superintendent Wayne Vickers, as well as Thompson’s manager Wesley Hester and athletic director Vince Pitts.
“It’s great work, and it’s the people who do it that way,” Freeman said. “Dr. Vickers and Mr. Hester and Vince – not only do we have a great relationship, but they are great friends. Every decision we make, we do so in the best interests of our children.
Many factors make Thompson the most attractive job in the state.
Before long, the Warriors became the state’s premier football team. They continue to produce the best leads and win big. They also have an $88 million school that includes an $19 million sports complex. Thompson moved from historic Larry Simmons Field en route to the new stadium and facilities ahead of the 2018 season.
Additionally, all six schools in the Alabaster City school system split from the Shelby County system in 2013, leaving Thompson as the only high school in the system.
“I think it’s a desirable job for all the reasons people probably think,” Pitts said. “Obviously Coach Freeman has done a fantastic job of creating this. I think it’s also a testament to the support of our administration and the willingness and desire to be great. The facilities are certainly part of that, but I believe buildings are just buildings until you add great people.
The Warriors went 5-5 in each of Freeman’s first two seasons and did not make the playoffs. Since then, Thompson is 62-5 with three state titles and a second-place finish. Freeman’s team will open 2022 with a pair of high-profile out-of-state games.
The Warriors take on Buford, Ga., and Alabama running back engage Judge Haynes in the Freedom Bowl in Alpharetta, Ga., on Aug. 19. They return home Aug. 27 to host former NFL QB Trent Dilfer and Lipscomb Academy in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
“The ability to hire great assistants and great staff members is important,” Pitts said. “I think that was very important for our success. Our goal has been to hire the best coach and the best teacher. When you focus on hiring the best, you tend to get the best.
Thompson’s rival in Region 3, Hoover, came second in the survey. The Bucs hired Wade Waldrop in the offseason to replace Josh Niblett. No. 3 was Gulf Shores, another of Freeman’s previous practice stops. The Dolphins are currently coached by former college coach Mark Hudspeth.
MOST DESIRABLE HEAD COACHING JOBS
(Based on 75 responses from AL.comanonymous survey of coaches)
2. Vacuum cleaner (11%)
3. Gulf Shores (8%)
4. (Tie) Auburn, Hewitt-Trussville (7%)
Other multivoting jobs: Central-Phenix City, Oneonta, Orange Beach, Piedmont, Saraland, Spanish Fort, St. Paul’s, TR Miller, UMS-Wright, Vestavia Hills.
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