Hurst moves on from East­side

Af­ter help­ing build the pro­gram, Rick Hurst steps down from East­side with a job well done

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - SHAKEEM HOLLOWAY shol­loway@cov­

Rick Hurst, head foot­ball coach, an­nounced on Wed­nes­day that he was resigning from East­side high school and would be ac­cept­ing the head coach­ing po­si­tion at Pep­perell High School.


n Wed­nes­day East­side foot­ball coach, Rick Hurst con­firmed that he had ac­cepted the head coach­ing job at Pep­perell High School. Hurst has been a coach for 21 years, hav­ing spent 10 of those years at East­side, which some may con­sider a life­time for high school foot­ball coach.

Rick Hurst was the long­est tenured head coach in the county, hav­ing joined East­side in 2005. He has com­piled a 66-46 record dur­ing his ten­ure af­ter over­turn­ing a dor­mant foot­ball pro­gram into a widely rec­og­nized team.

“Be­fore we ar­rived here there was no thought of com­pet­ing at the state level, they were just try­ing to sur­vive. Now to look up and you see our ban­ners hang­ing and you see kids that have gone on and played at a very high level, those are the things that you’re proud of as a head coach and that’s what I’ll take from here,” Hurst said. “It’s not the wins as much as I’ve en­joyed those, those are great, but it’s see­ing those guys go off and come back and be a part of our pro­gram that’s go­ing to be here for a long time and it’s in great shape. It’s in good hands.”

“I’m proud of what we’ve ac­com­plished. It’s not me, it’s not I, it’s we, and that means the staff, the ad­min­is­tra­tion, the play­ers, the com­mu­nity, the par­ents...every­body’s in­volved in mak­ing a pro­gram,” Hurst added. “When you go to th­ese big places like Val­dosta and Car­roll­ton and Cartersville, it’s not the team, it’s every­body. Every­body has to buy in, every­body has to be sold on the vi­sion of the leader. Yeah, it’s been my vi­sion, but every­body has to buy in to it. That’s what’s sat­is­fy­ing. To know that so many peo­ple had a hand in get­ting this thing where it is. That’ some­thing I’ll never for­get.”

Hurst echoes some­thing that An­derico Bai­ley said a week ago about turn­ing East­side rec­og­nized pro­gram. Bai­ley – cur­rently an East­side as­sis­tant coach – was a part of Hurst’s first team, as they came in to­gether. East­side Ath­letic Direc­tor Dr. Bruce Mc­Col­umn’s first year was also in 2005, along with Hurst and Bai­ley.

“He’s a pro­gram changer. We were in dire need of our foot­ball pro­gram be­ing turned around,” Dr. Mc­Col­umn said. “From what I un­der­stand – I was not a part of the in­ter­view process – but I un­der­stand that he said what he’s gonna do and he did ev­ery­thing that he said he would do.”

Mc­Col­umn said Hurst’s best char­ac­ter­is­tic was his high ex­pec­ta­tions for all of his play­ers.

“He didn’t care about the color, he didn’t care about­the size. His mission was to give them all high ex­pec­ta­tions and make them into men. That’s more than just a foot­ball thing and that’s what I ap­pre­ci­ate more,” Mc­Col­umn said.

Hurst says that when the job be­came avail­able at Pep­perell he made his in­ter­est known and Pep­perell let him know that the in­ter­est was mu­tual.

“I’ve al­ways — as a head coach over the last few years — cir­cled ar­eas that I’ve felt like that at some point if the job be­came avail­able that I would be in­ter­ested in. Rome is 65 miles from where I grew up in North Ge­or­gia. The school sys­tem up there has al­ways been a very good one. Pep­perell is the best pro­gram in the county. When it came open I ap­plied for the job and heard from the prin­ci­pal within – I don’t even think I got there and he had a chance to read it all,” Hurst said laugh­ing.

Hurst says that the prin­ci­pal got back to him within a day. They talked on the phone and were very up­front with each other, and didn’t want to waste one an­other’s time.

Hurst went up and in­ter­viewed and took a tour, which com­bined, lasted four hours.

“I came home and told my wife I felt like it was a fit. I felt like that it was a lot like here. I just felt at home. I felt like that the ad­min­is­tra­tion was a key,” Hurst said. “As the head coach, that’s one thing you can’t miss on. You’ve got to have ad­min­is­tra­tors like I’ve had here that will al­low you to do things nec­es­sary to win.”

“Mr. [Phil] Ray, the prin­ci­pal there has been phe­nom­e­nal in this process. I look for­ward to work­ing with him,” he added.

Ray kept in touch with Hurst and made sure he was in­ter­ested. A week ago, on fri­day, while he was in Or­lando at a coach’s clinic, Hurst got the call and they of­fered him the job.

“Lot of prayer. A lot of talk­ing and dis­cus­sions with my wife,” Hurst said on what went into him mak­ing his fi­nal de­ci­sion. “We just felt like it was the best thing for us and the time was right. It’s been a won- der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence here. I can’t say enough about this com­mu­nity and es­pe­cially the East­side com­mu­nity and what they’ve done for my fam­ily. And New­ton County, I’ve had life­long friends here, peo­ple that I’ll never for­get.”

“Like I told one of the stu­dents, it’s not like I’m mov­ing to Europe,” Hurst chuck­led. “I know any kind of change is tough. It is on us and it was hard to­day. It was hard to look those kids in the eye that you’ve been with, some of them for four and five years, and ex­plain why you gotta go.”

Some of the play­ers took the news bet­ter than oth­ers. Hurst said he saw some tears, some anger and says there were a lot of mixed emo­tions, but he felt the team un­der­stood be­cause Hurst and his staff did a good job with the way they ex­plained things with as­sis­tant coaches that left in the past.

“Any time that you lose those kind of guys it’s hurt­ful with the play­ers,” Hurst said. “Through­out that whole process I try to tell them, ‘Look, you never fault a man for bet­ter­ing him­self.’ Yeah you can have emo­tion, you can be mad, you can be sad, but you’ve got to un­der­stand that deep down peo­ple have got to do what’s best for them and their fam­ily.”

“They’re re­silient kids. You saw that this year, and they’re not gone quit. I told them that the pro­gram is big­ger than any one part. I’m just a lit­tle part of it. It’s in good hands. I’m leav­ing it in bet­ter shape than I took it, and that’s what I’m proud of,” Hurst said.

Hurst goal was that he wanted East­side’s pro­gram to be big­ger than New­ton County, and af­ter all of his suc­cess, most peo­ple should con­sider it a mission ac­com­plished.

“My goal was to have it [the East­side foot­ball pro­gram] re­spectable through­out the state of Ge­or­gia. As a coach, as an as­sis­tant coach all over the state be­fore I took this job that was my goal. I didn't want us to be re­spectable in New­ton County,” Hurst said ad­mirably. “I wanted us to be re­spectable across the state of Ge­or­gia and I think we’ve ac­com­plished that.”

“I think when you make it to the state semi­fi­nals, the state quar­ter­fi­nals and you beat teams like Car­roll­ton and you’re in games with Peach County and those kinds of en­vi­ron­ments you put this kind of place on the map and that was the goal. To get us to be able to com­pete at the state level.”

There is no word yet on who East­side is look­ing at to re­place Hurst. Check back with the Cov­ing­ton News for up­dates.

An­thony Banks / The Cov­ing­ton News

An­thony Banks / The Cov­ing­ton News

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