the north face mcmurdo parka Ashley Henderson arrives on campus at Central
THOMASVILLE A new era of Thomas County Central football has officially begun.
New Central head football coach Ashley Henderson arrived on the school’s campus for his first day on the job on Thursday. Open cardboard boxes litter the floor of his new office, but he hasn’t wasted any time in familiarizing himself with his new situation.
“It’s like I told the kids the talking’s done now,” Henderson said. “It’s time for the rubber to hit the road. I’ve been checking on academics, checking on grades, we’ve been ordering equipment, we’ve been interviewing coaches and all that. I’ve been trying to establish these relationships with these kids because that’s what it’s all about. It’s about them. We want to establish that trust with them.”
Assembling Central’s new coaching staff is still a work in progress, but one piece of that puzzle is already in place. The Yellow Jackets have hired Phillip Duplantis to be the assistant head coach and conditioning coach. He was on campus working with players in the weight room on Thursday.
Duplantis played with Henderson at Valdosta, and in his college days, he served as a graduate assistant at LSU under Nick Saban.
“There have been many schools even around here that have tried to lure him out down to South Georgia, where he’s from,” Henderson said. “It took a special place like Central for him to say yes. He’s one of the best in the state. He brings a lot of energy.”
Henderson has been big on marketing the program. There will be spirit gear that the team will wear during workouts and out in the community.
“We’ve got to be visual,” Henderson said. “We’ve got to be accessible. We’ve got to market ourselves to bring this excitement. I probably slept three hours last night, ready to go. It’s built up.
“The kids are very enthusiastic. They’ve been reaching out to us on Facebook and Twitter, you name it. They’ve been just as excited about today as we have.”
Along with all that excitement, there will be challenges. In addition to the learning curve of installing a brand new spread offense, Central is looking to build its numbers up. That certainly means combing the hallways for talent, but that also starts early, in middle school and early high school.
Along with the existing middle school team, Henderson says there will be a new ninth grade program to help ease the transition into JV and varsity ball.
“With a ninth grade program, you can take a kid that’s a little undersized and nurture them more,” Henderson said. “We may have to be more creative in how the varsity (team) practices now because you don’t have 58 ninth graders moving up. We’re going to build this thing from the ground up and do what we think is best for the total program.”
Work in the wright room is critical, but nutrition is just as, if not more important. Henderson will implement that throughout his program.
“We’re going to have a nutrition table set up in the locker room and we’re gonna feed them whenever we can,” Henderson said. “We’re gonna get on them when we don’t see them eating. The goal is in six months, we want 20 pounds of good weight on each kid. We want to teach them how to make the right choices eating.”
Henderson says he will meet with his seniors next week. Their leadership will be critical during the spring and the coming season.
“This is their football team,” Henderson said. “We’re going to let them start making some decisions on a team motto. We’re going to tell them the expectations. There’s a standard around here.