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Etowah fans welcome Noles


Etowah High School’s new football coach Drew Noles talks about his plans for the Blue Devils after being introduced to players, parents, boosters and the community during a meeting Tuesday night at the school in Attalla. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)


ATTALLA — New Etowah High School football coach Drew Noles got a warm Blue Devils welcome during a meet-and-greet session at the school’s cafeteria Tuesday night.

Noles, who replaced Sam McCorkle, introduced himself to approximately 150 people gathered to hear the coach’s thoughts on a variety of topics. He covered everything from Noles’ vision for the program to summer workouts to community involvement with the football program.

Noles, who came to Etowah after 13 seasons as the head coach at Class 5A, Region 7 rival Boaz, said even though he was happy with the Pirates, he felt the opportunity to come to Attalla and add to the Blue Devils’ tradition was too good to pass up.

“I’m not an arrogant person, but I probably could have retired there (at Boaz),” Noles said. “I probably could have had something named after me. I probably could have been carried off the field. We’re here because we want to be here.”

Noles stressed the importance of all athletics, not just football.

“We want to have a total athletic program, one that’s going to represent our school in all athletics,” he said. “We feel that is very, very important.”

Making sure student-athletes are just that also was an important point Noles made.

“We are going to stress grades,” he explained. “You’ve got some very good athletes here, but most of them are going to be done (with sports) when they’re done with 12th grade. If they will give up four years of really getting after it in the classroom, the next 44 years of their lives can be a whole lot better. We are going to stress academics to them.”

The message Noles, who received a standing ovation upon his introduction Wednesday, gave appeared to have reached listeners.

“He is a straightforward man, and I like that,” said Etowah alumnus Jason Argo, whose son, Alex, will begin playing football for Etowah Middle School this year. “I think he is going to have success.”

The community aspect of high school football is something Noles values.

“I do think that there is strength in numbers,” he said. “A lot of people can do a lot of things.

“The more games we win, the better the school is, the more community pride there is. We want to put something on the field that you will be proud of.”

He said even people without children playing football would be welcomed to help out with the program.

Availability, not just to players, is important to Noles, who welcomed contact from players’ parents.

“If you need something, holler at me,” he said.

Except, he said with a chuckle, on Friday nights.

About 150 student-athletes are working out in the Etowah program, Noles said. He anticipates graduating 20 football players a season.

Noles plans to establish a ninth-grade football team with a six- or seven-game schedule, and there will be a 10-day spring training just for the freshman team, along with a 10-day spring training for the varsity.

Even though he expects plenty of hard work from his players, Noles also understands the value of letting kids be kids.

“There has to be a commitment to football, but a high school student has to have time to be a kid,” he said. “There has to be a time to go fishing, to go to the mall and hang out, to hang out with his buddies and play PlayStation all night.”

As a result, he said Blue Devil players will lift weights only two days a week in June and three days in July, though he will be present in the field house daily.

As for the team’s 2013 opener against Alexandria, Noles made a single promise.

“I’m not saying we’re gonna whip Alexandria,” he said. “I want them to enjoy the summer, but we’ll be ready for Alexandria.

“Our kids will be prepared. I promise you, our team will play hard. If they don’t, they won’t play.”

Noles wants players to enjoy being a part of the Blue Devil program much the same way he feels about being the Etowah football coach.

“I am so excited about the opportunity,” he said. “I want our players to look back and say that they would do it all over again.”