OC football vacancy no longer a question
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Finally, Obion County School System Athletic Director Robert Powell has an answer for his most-often asked question of the past five weeks.
Walton verbally agreed this morning to become Obion County Central’s new head football coach and was to meet with the team this afternoon. He replaces Jason Driggers, who resigned the post in January after just one season — that 2007 campaign the third winless season in the program’s largely undistinguished 47-year history.
Walton will become the 13th head coach in the football annals of OCCHS and is being counted on to both provide stability and establish some tradition in a sport that will have its fourth head coach in the last seven seasons and has enjoyed just nine years with a winning record.
“I said from the outset that it was my challenge to identify the best candidate out there for this position, and I think we’ve done that and gotten him on board,” Powell told The Messenger late this morning. “Mr. Walton brings a unique skill set with his ability to develop talent and his long-term vision for the program at Obion Central.
“He understands the passion and commitment of the community, and I believe he’ll surpass that himself with those same qualities. He’s excited about the challenge and so am I. I expect him to be visible at the school and in the community on a daily basis almost immediately.”
The 41-year-old Walton beat out “between 20 and 25” other candidates who showed interest in the job, according to Powell. Among that group either to have inquired about the position or interviewed for it were Barry Kendall and Paul Decker — both former players and assistant coaches at Obion Central — and ex-Rebel head coach Chris Hill.
The much-traveled Hill instead took his third job since leaving Troy after the 2002 season when he recently accepted the head coaching and athletic director position at Ashdown (Ark.), a 4A school near Texarkana.
The 41-year-old Walton has not coached since the 2004 season, having spent the last three years as a fulltime faculty member within the Health and Human Performance Department at UT Martin.
He does have eight years of prep coaching experience in Georgia at five different schools, twice serving at Griffin High. He also was on the staffs at North Oconee, Wayne County, Fannin County and Pike County in the Peach Tree state, filling a variety of roles at those schools, including coordinating both offensive and defensive schemes at different junctures.
The head coaching job though, will be Walton’s first.
Walton is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist and worked in that capacity for all sports teams at three different high schools in Georgia.
He reportedly has recently turned down a high-paying job to return to one Georgia school as a defensive coordinator because of his family’s wishes to remain in rural West Tennessee.
Powell has said that the new Rebel boss will likely be allowed to bring in two assistants of his own choosing to fill out his first staff. John Gurschick and Mark Rich, aides hired by Driggers before his first and only season at OC, earlier submitted their forced resignations after Driggers made his intentions to return to his former job as defensive coordinator at Jackson South Side known.
Walton was a player at Nettleton High School in Jonesboro (Ark.), and later walked on at Arkansas State. According to his resumé, he has worked as an exercise physiologist in cardiac rehabilitation from 1992-94, designing exercise protocols for cardiac and pulmonary patients according to the guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine.
In addition to his teaching experience at UT Martin, he also has been a faculty member at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 2.15.08
football coach, Obion County Central High School