Late Friday afternoon it was announced that former Yellow Jacket Casey Tate would take the reins as Head Coach of the Yellow Jackets. Tate, a 1998 graduate of GCHS, played for Chris Pickett and Sid Fritts.
The new coach said he and everyone he is planning on helping him so far all have the same concern. Numbers. With only 18 players returning from the current team it is a serious issue.
“Right now everybody’s main concern is getting kids to play football. We’re going to recruit the halls like crazy. And, it’s not just going up and saying can you play football. You’ve got to build relationships with them. The plus is I have relationships already with a lot of them from my time coaching them before. There’s been a lot of them that have already told me ‘I’m coming back to football. When’s workouts?’ I’ve told them we go to work Tuesday right after school,” said Coach Tate.
The coach has a goal of having 70 on the team eventually.
Casey began his coaching career the year after he graduated with the Junior Jacket program in 1999. He was an assistant to Russell Ladd for two years with that program and was set to take it over the third year when his father fell ill.
“That first year we won every game except the Sequatchie Valley championship where we fumbled twice on the goal line and got beat by a touchdown. I was in school. I was going to be a teacher and a coach and then my dad got sick. I had actually taken the head-coaching job the third year and had gone to the conference meeting. Then dad got sick and we had the chicken houses at the time and it was no more football,” said Tate.
So, he quit college at the time and took on many family responsibilities. It didn’t take long to get right back into the game.
Tate got back into coaching in 2008 as an assistant with the Bulldogs 11 to 12-year-old team. That year the team suffered one loss during the regular season and avenged it with a Harvest Bowl win. The following year he took off as he was back in college and working full time.
In 2010, he returned to the peewee leagues to coach his son. In 2011, he started working as an assistant with the high school program as well coaching with the Bulldogs during that time.
Last year Tate took over a Junior Jacket program in shambles and not only turned them into a winner but gave the program its first undefeated season and a Sequatchie Valley Conference title to boot.
Casey plans have a full junior varsity team with an eight game schedule so that the freshmen and sophomores get in quality work and not just see action in practice.
“There’s only two freshmen on the team right now and it’s a huge freshman class. I’ve got to put in a lot of effort. I don’t know if there’s ever been a class that only had two kids play. I’m sure there’s kids in there that want to play,” said Tate.
On the subject of assistant coaches, Take believes local talent will be where he draws most of his resources.
“I want to utilize the volunteer coaches. I feel this very strongly. In Grundy County, it’s hard to talk someone into coming here. You have to recruit quality people. If you’re from here you love it and you understand it. But, for someone who doesn’t live here and has no family here it’s just hard and that’s just the facts of it. So, I’m going to use volunteers who have proven to be good teachers even though they don’t teach for a living and all they want to do is help Grundy County kids and Grundy County football.
“They’re former players, so yes, you’ll see Nick Jensen, the Coffelts, Brad Dees who is a teacher and you’ll see Derryl Graham. It’s important to have Derryl in the mix somewhere and I’m hoping to keep him working with the Junior Jacket program and I’d love to have him as the head coach.
“I’m not closed minded to bringing someone in but you have to go to them. They’re not really going to come to you. I’m from Grundy County and I like to help Grundy people. If there’s coaches in the system that are willing, I’ll always look at Grundy County people first,” added the coach.
When it comes to naming specific titles and positions like coordinators Tate is more concerned with getting the work done.
“I’m not hung up on labels. You don’t want someone who wants to wear a hat and say ‘I’m an offensive coordinator.’ You want people willing to do whatever it takes and whatever job necessary at any time,” said Coach Tate.
It will be a new beginning for Tate and the Yellow Jackets this fall. Grundy enters a new region this fall. Region 4 3A will consist of the Yellow Jackets along with Cannon County, DeKalb County, Sequatchie County, Smith County, Upperman, and York Institute. Their games outside the region will be Whitwell, South Pittsburg, Marion County, and Watertown.
There is lots of work to do. Coach Tate will need one and all, young and old, past and present of the Yellow Jacket faithful to get on board and get behind Grundy County football.