After 74 days of not having a head coach, the wait is over for the Station Camp High School football program.
The Bison have hired current Station Camp teacher and former NFL standout Brent Alexander to lead their program.
Alexander, who is from Gallatin and graduated from Gallatin High School in 1989, has taught computer applications and algebra at Station Camp High School for the last five years.
“His attention to detail is very impressive,” said Station Camp Athletic Director Patrick Duffer. “Considering his resumé, he has quite an extensive amount of football knowledge. He has been around the game a long time and been coached by some of the greatest ever. We are excited to have him lead our program.”
Following coach Shaun Hollinsworth’s decision to step down on Nov. 4, Station Camp officials took their time going over resumés and setting up interviews.
It wasn’t until early January that the school conducted interviews, and it wasn’t until Jan. 17 that they decided to offer the job to Alexander.
“A big part of my decision to take this job was how it would impact my teaching,” Alexander said. “Mr. (Art) Crook (and) Mr. (Patrick) Duffer understand how much teaching means to me. I want to be the best at whatever I do, so I sat down to think about the pros and the cons of being a head coach at the high school level.
“I knew being in the building already was a huge plus. It wasn’t a gigantic move for me, and I’m somewhat familiar with everything here, and that was all very helpful to me in my decision making. Everything played into the situation for me to take this opportunity.”
With the hire, Alexander becomes the first African American head football coach in Sumner County since Ed Martin, who coached at Union High School before it integrated with Gallatin in the fall of 1970.
“I realize where I am from that is a factor, but at the end of the day, that is now how I wanted to be graded,” he said. “I don’t want to be looked at that way. I truly believe in every kid and person having an opportunity to be whatever it is they want to be.
“Whether you are black, white, Hispanic, whatever. That shouldn’t be a barrier to hold me or anyone else back. I want to be judged as a person as opposed to being labeled off how I look. That was kitchen-table talk where I grew up in Gallatin, and I remember things that were said - ‘You can not be this because of the color of your skin.’ I grew up in that world of, ‘You can do this, but you can’t do that.’ I am hoping we can move to a point where that is not a factor.”
On the field, things have not gone well for the Bison football program recently. Over the last seven seasons, Station Camp is just 26-47 and has not won a region game since Oct. 28, 2016.
But that isn’t what concerns Alexander.
“Most of my concerns are not football related,” he said. “One of the things I learned professionally is if you take the teams that function the best and that run the best they are done so from the top. What you see on the field is the result of preparation.
“I have financial concerns; I don’t think many people understand how much money it takes to have a football team. We need to have people that want a program and give that financial commitment, then you have the opportunity to build something great. The first thing people want to talk about is the X’s and O’s, and that is great, but it takes time to get there, and we are so far away from that right now.”
Alexander’s spirit has been boosted and his concerns have disappeared since taking over, however.
“There are enough people and hope that we can move forward and start taking care of the things to develop a stable program,” he said. “There are enough people here who want a football program. I believe everyone wants to win. You’re not going to find someone who says they are OK with losing, but the question is who is willing to do what it takes to get there. That is what matters.
“I want to make this clear: regardless of what anyone was saying, what coach (Shaun) Hollinsworth did here was outstanding. To build a program from nothing is an incredible amount of work. Now the question is how do we grow off of that.”
Some people want to blame Station Camp’s football struggles on the rezoning that took place a few years ago, though Alexander said other factors also contributed to the losing seasons.
“I’ll say this, the biggest thing I learned in the NFL is there are so many people in this world that can do your job better than you,” he said. “There was a list of things that all snowballed and came together at once, but there was never a problem here our neighboring schools didn’t have.
“A lot of people want to look at the zoning, but there was a point in time where people in Gallatin blamed the existence of Station Camp for their problems. I look at it as one more school to allow the kids to play. There are a lot of factors when it comes to on-the-field (performance).”
For Alexander, the answer to success is simple: it starts with discipline on and off the field, and that includes in the classroom.
“I fall back to discipline,” he said. “If I’m looking at it just from the football standpoint, it starts with not beating yourself or putting yourself in a bad position. I want to raise the football IQ. We need to have coaches that aren’t going to be fooled even when they are scouted. Our kids will be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.
“It all goes back to the little things. It starts with our academics. Turning things in on time is a must. If a kid doesn’t turn his homework in on time, how can I expect them to know the X’s and O’s? We will do the little things. We will be in class on time, we will be at practice on time, we will be early, we will be first, and in the end, you can look and see a group of guys that are very disciplined and do what they are told and play in the framework of the scheme and play smart. That is the attitude we will have. We will have to grade each other every day.
“I think the number one thing for success is looking at our mental errors,” he continued. “You can look at the scoreboard and see who wins and loses but we have to minimize our mistakes and that starts with discipline. We must do the basic drills regularly. We need to change the mental aspect of the game. I relate it to chess; in chess, you know what each piece does. The coaches can’t coach you until you get the pieces to do what they are supposed to do.”
Alexander has just two to three months before spring ball gets started, and with such a late start, he is trying to move everything back to as late as possible.
“We are just getting involved in our offseason workout programs and moving towards training mode,” he said. “How we do there carries to the field. Our spring ball will get pushed back as far as possible. We have to get our install schedule right now for both our offense, defense and see schematically how to match up to best serve each other.
“Our No. 1 focus right now is focusing the right way. We want high-speed practices every day. Every day we want our periods to be as close to game speed as possible so that we can create a base that is the slowest we can play. We will work every day to raise the bar higher and higher. Our guys should be completely exhausted after practice and if they are not, then they are not going as hard as they can. We don’t like stagnant. Our goal is to wear down the opponent.”
For Alexander to move forward, he must begin with his planning. He must first hire a coaching staff, and while no one has been offered a position yet, he knows exactly who he is looking for.
“I’m looking for a combination of veterans and young guys,” he said. “I like young guys because they have the innovation and sometimes changing is the hardest part. When we do the same thing over and over again we get in a rut, so I love changes and innovation.
“One of the first things we will do as a staff is work on our scheme and terminology so that we can make the plays that fit the scheme without changing our objective. We want our young guys to modify things to fit into our scheme. My job is to put a scheme and concepts together and allow the coaches to have fun with their creativity.
“Our No. 1 thing defensively is going to be able to line up against anything and everything people throw at us,” he said. “We will know our roles and our adjustments in any defense that is called. Offensively, I look at it like a keypad on a phone. I want to attack every button, including the pound and asterisk, so the question becomes how do we attack every scenario. We want to make teams play defense all over the board. We want to force them to change.”
Following his playing days at Tennessee State University, Alexander went undrafted before playing for 12 seasons in the National Football League. He played for four different franchises including the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers. He recorded 28 interceptions, eight sacks, over 800 tackles and was a starting safety from day one. Alexander says there is at least one thing from that experience that he will apply to his current team.
“We will never just get through a play,” he said. “You will be evaluated in everything that you do. The greatest thing we have as Americans is an opportunity, and you don’t know how many more you have left.”