Head Bulldog Reed meets with incoming players on visit

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; While coaching in Texas for the last seven years, Lance Reed had a strict schedule each Saturday morning during football season following a Friday night game.

And it never changed &045; he would call his parents or somebody back in Natchez to see how the Bulldogs did. In recent season he was on the receiving end of more disappointment than he cared to stand, and part of that may be the motivating factor to apply for the job as head football coach at Natchez High.

Reed got the job as his first head coaching position, and on Friday he was in Natchez meeting with players at the school and at Robert Lewis Middle School to get orientated with the players and the program.

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And he also lit a little fire in the process.

&uot;This is my school,&uot; said Reed, a 1991 graduate of NHS and former assistant at Arlington (Texas) Sam Houston. &uot;I came back here for a reason. I didn’t come back here for me &045; I came back here for you. A lot of people in Mississippi respect this town and what we can do. For me to come back, it’s an extreme pleasure for me.&uot;

The new coach spent the day with athletic director Robert Cade and met with a number of players, assistants and supporters while he ducked away from his job as math teacher back in Texas.

Reed, hired earlier this month to replace James Denson as head coach, spent the day preaching to cultivate three things important in order to become winners &045; character, academics and football.

&uot;How many of you guys are ready to be dedicated?&uot; Reed asked the group at Robert Lewis Middle School. &uot;It’s going to be fun, but you’re going to have to show me you do the right thing. You’ve got a whole community of people looking for you to make a change. There’s a lot of history and tradition in Natchez.&uot;

The message Reed brought was a lively one, and it brings fresh blood into a program that’s fallen on hard times in recent years. The new coach did plenty more preaching on character and academics than the game of football, and both of those areas will carry over on to the football field once workouts begin in August.

And it was a first impression on the kids heading into the summer before Reed settles into the job and starts working in July.

&uot;I think it was a good impression upon the kids,&uot; Cade said. &uot;They had some type of idea of what type of person he was. He went to school with a lot of their parents. I imagine when they talked to their parents they said he was a no-nonsense kind of guy. Believe it or not, he was that type of person. He was all-conference in football and academics. He’s not just talking.&uot;

Reed spent about 20 minutes with each group and spent most of the session asking players about grades, if they want to go to college and how much work will be required of them once the season begins.

It’s an area Reed specialized in while coaching at Sam Houston &045; he was nominated for Teacher of the Year for the current school year and is the campus liaison for the 100 Black Men of America Mentoring Program.

&uot;I live like this, I played like this and I carry myself like this,&uot; Reed said. &uot;You’re going to get to know me. You’re going to get to know me very well. This is going to be the toughest year for seniors. We’re putting this in, and they’re going to have to buy into it real quick.

&uot;Hopefully you’ll all buy into it quick. We’re not trying to tell you anything that’s wrong. We’re telling you what’s right.&uot;

Reed said he’s already watched game films from last year, including the losses to Oak Grove and Port Gibson and the 14-12 win over Vicksburg. But that’s all in the past, and he said he can’t wait for that season opener at home against Port Gibson this fall.

And if everything goes well in fall camp, the players will be equally jazzed up.

&uot;I think he’s going to be a good coach,&uot; said center Henry Hudgpeth, who started 10 games as a sophomore in 2003. &uot;That’s what the team needs &045; good discipline. We need somebody we can trust. We’ll trust him, so he’ll trust us. I think he’s the right person for us. We want to win. We’re already talking about it.&uot;