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Errol Jones to lead Bryant football team


Errol Jones coaches during the Colbert County Tournament. (Photo by Florence Times-Daily)


TUSCALOOSA | Errol Jones is returning to familiar territory to coach the Paul W. Bryant High School football team.

Jones’ hiring was approved Tuesday by the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education. He replaces Chris Hilliker, who coached the Stampede to a 6-5 record and a playoff berth last season. Hilliker left to become the head coach at Northside.

Jones, 45, graduated from Tuscaloosa County High School in 1985 and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Alabama A&M University. A defensive end at TCHS, Jones earned a scholarship to attend Alabama A&M.

He was the head boys basketball coach and an assistant football coach at Deshler High School during the 2011-12 school year. Prior to that, he coached the running backs and was a recruiter at Alabama A&M.

Bryant Principal Raquel Payne said Jones’ father, the Rev. Willie Clyde Jones, is the pastor at Bailey Tabernacle CME Church, and his mother, Kay Rice Jones, taught in the Tuscaloosa City School System.

"They’re happy and very excited about fact that I’m coming home," Jones said. "It’s just a blessing. I’ve coached from the seventh grade all the way up through college. Now I have the opportunity to coach at a school that wasn’t even in existence when I was in school. I know I’ll be facing some new challenges, but I’m looking forward to taking them on."

Payne said 70 applications were received, and nine people were interviewed.

"We understood the urgency in finding a head coach for our players," Payne said. "It was very important for me that we found someone that would be a good fit for our school. Mr. Jones was very passionate about coming back home, not just back to Tuscaloosa but to be the head coach at Paul W. Bryant High School. He’s got to hit the ground running. He understands that.

"I would really like to say how special our student-athletes are. Coach Hilliker resigned one day, and the very next day the players showed up to work out. I am so proud of our student-athletes. They are resilient. They are steadfast. I tell them all the time, ‘Champions aren’t made it the ring. It’s what you do behind the scenes that matters.’ "

Bryant has put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the school opened in 2003. Bobby Moore coached the Stampede to a 6-5 record and an AHSAA Class 5A playoff berth in 2010 before leaving to coach at Baldwin County. Moore stayed for three seasons. Hilliker stayed for one.

Scott Booth, the first head coach, had a five-year tenure. The Stampede made its first playoff appearance in 2005 and finished with a 5-6 record. George Pugh, who played for Paul W. Bryant at Alabama in the 1970s, was hired to replace Booth, but Pugh resigned before coaching in an official game.

"I want to continue to build on what’s already there," said Jones, an assistant coach at Russellville when the Tigers reached AHSAA championship games in 2002, 2003 and 2004. "It’s obvious that they have a nucleus of young men that have bought into the fact that Bryant High School can be a playoff-caliber team."

Jones said his top priority is to meet potential players and assistant coaches, and he wants to start conducting the weight workouts.

"I’ve been exposed to a lot of offensive sets," Jones said. "One thing I’ve learned is that you adopt your philosophy to your players. It all depends on what my athletes are capable of doing. I don’t know what they ran per se last year. I understand it was a little bit of the spread, but I’ll evaluate it and go from there."

Jones started teaching and coaching at a middle school in Phenix City. He worked in Eufaula before moving to Daleville, where he was an athletic director and head football coach for the middle school team. Jones became an assistant coach for Perry Swindall, head coach for the Daleville varsity. When Swindall got the head coaching job at Russellville, Jones made the move as well and eventually became the offensive coordiantor.

 

Reach Andrew Carroll at andrew.carroll@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0223.