Natchez High players respond well to new head coach
When Natchez High School’s new head football coach Melvin Pete walked into his first summer workout with the Bulldogs this week, it didn’t take long for the players to realize he meant business.
“He just came in with that serious look, and you could tell he was about business,” senior cornerback Greg Terrell said.
Though some underclassmen might have been intimidated by Pete’s solid stature and booming voice, seniors like Terrell knew that was exactly what the Bulldogs need.
The Bulldogs went 4-7 last season after struggling with injuries and moving up to Class 5A. The last thing the seniors want is a repeat of last season before their high school careers end.
The program needed a change, and that change was Pete.
When Pete came into the weight room and motivated his players to work harder than they have all summer, Terrell said he was relieved to see his team perform at a higher tempo.
“I feel like it needs to be that (intense),” Terrell said. “And I believe it’s going to make a difference and make some stars out of us.”
Pete said his first goal on his checklist coming in was making sure he and the seniors were on the same page, and know that they will have to step up more than ever if they want to have a successful season.
“Sometimes you have to let the leaders be leaders, and I brought the seniors in and tried to make sure that they can be the leaders they need to be,” Pete said.
Pete tested his seniors early as he sat back the second day to see how they would respond to him turning up the intensity of their cardio workouts.
“When I visit the school with the principal (Willis Smith), I passed by and saw them running at a leisurely pace,” Pete said. “But when I got them to myself, I put the seniors in charge while the other coaches were absent, so it gives them the opportunity to be leaders.”
Senior quarterback and wide receiver Sidney Davis said he feels the senior class is up to the challenge.
“We know we have to show the underclassmen how to play and work hard,” Davis said.
By the end of Week 1, Pete sat his players down to let them know one thing — he will be the bad guy.
He explained to his players there has to be someone to tell them when they’re doing things wrong, otherwise they’ll never improve.
But in retrospect, Pete wanted his players to know that no matter what
happens on the field, they are now a family.
“What I wanted them to know is that I’m a person that’s going to care about what happens to you, I’m not only your coach,” Pete said. “I do care about what happens with you for the rest of your life. I want to be the person you call later in life when you get your first car, and your bachelor’s and get married.”
Pete understands that type of bond doesn’t happen overnight, but he said he is willing to create that type of relationship as soon as his players are ready.
While Pete is trying to create a family-like bond, he is also trying to compare Xs an Os instead of doing the impossible — getting his entire team to learn an entirely new playbook in less than a month.
Senior lineman Jeffery Johnson said Pete and his teammates are all putting their heads together to come up with the best system, by taking the old and blending it with the new.
“We wanted to make sure a lot didn’t change so fast,” Jefferson said. “We had our plays we’ve been running for three years (as seniors), so we didn’t want to change too much at once. He showed us his plays as well, but we’ll keep our spread and change a few things.
“I feel like this could work.”