Ferriday coach stresses work on field, in classroom

Published 12:02 am Monday, August 6, 2012

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Cleothis Cummings was named the Ferriday High School football head coach on July 12, and is ready to kick off the season during the on Aug. 17 in a scrimmage against Jena High School.

FERRIDAY — Cleothis Cummings said he knows there’s pressure to win at Ferriday High School.

He said he knows the tradition of strong Trojan teams that date back to the late 1970s.

“Black and gold is what this community is about. Everyone here believes in the Ferriday High Trojans,” Cummings said.

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But if there’s one thing that comes above even winning for the Trojans’ new head coach, it’s making sure his student-athletes are successful in the classroom.

“Academics are the No. 1 thing,” Cummings said. “You can’t do anything without grades. If you don’t have that transcript up to par, you will not be able to succeed in life at anything.”

While some student-athletes may try to just “get by” when it comes to their studies, Cummings said he has no tolerance for that kind of attitude on his football team.

“Some kids believe if they make average grades, they’re comfortable,” Cummings said. “We don’t want them to be comfortable with that. We want scholar athletes, not just athletes.”

Cummings enters his first season as head coach after spending a number of years as an assistant at FHS. He was also the head coach at Ferriday Junior High School in 2010 trying to help then-head coach Chad Harkins build his program up at the middle school level.

Having worked under coaches like Randy Peters, John Sampson, James McFarland, James Davis, Freddie Harrison and, most recently, Richard Oliver, Cummings said they all taught him what he needed to know as a coach.

“Coach James Davis is my mentor, and he always told me to be patient and do what I’ve been taught,” Cummings said.

Although he wanted the head coaching job when it became available in late June, Cummings said he didn’t initially have head coaching aspirations.

Cummings graduated from FHS in 1999 and signed a football scholarship with Arkansas Pine Bluff as a running back/linebacker, but he got homesick after one year. He transferred to Copiah-Lincoln Community College and played a year, then he finished college at Alcorn State University, though he didn’t play football for the Braves.

While in school, Cummings started off as a student coach at FHS while he studied for a physical education degree. Looking back, Cummings said he could never have imagined that one day he’d be leading the Trojans.

“I was just a regular greenhorn trying to coach a position as best I could,” Cummings said. “Eventually it dawned on me that I could be a head coach somewhere, not just in Ferriday, but it had always been in the back of my mind that I could coach at my alma mater from that point.”

Now that he’s running the Trojans’ ship, Cummings said he sees the job as a calling from God.

“It’s a tremendous blessing,” Cummings said. “Not too many people get to coach at their alma mater, especially in their first year (as a head coach). I just want to thank God for placing me here and the school board members for feeling I could do well.”

Cummings said the Trojans will run a pro-style offense with an even mix of run and pass, and the defense will swap between multiple sets. He also said he can’t wait for the first time he takes the field at home as head coach of FHS.

“I think there’s no better place to be on Friday nights,” Cummings said. “Fans make the game very interesting, and the kids feed off the energy. It brings a lot of enthusiasm we need in this town to jel as a community.”

Cummings is married to Zacki Cummings, and they have three daughters: Kaitlyn, Cloi and Cle’Onia.