Coaching football isn’t always a nomadic lifestyle.
Some coaches spend a lifetime seemingly living out of their suitcase. A year here, two years there ... always on the move and never in one place for very long.
There is another side of the spectrum. Locally, there are plenty of head coach and assistant coaches who have found that you either don’t have to leave home to find happiness on the sideline or you can come home again.
In the TimesDaily coverage area, 12 of 30 head coaches are at the school from which they graduated. For some, like Sheffield’s David Hufstedler and Rogers’ Randall Martin, their paths led them away from the area before returning home. Others, like Central’s Heath Wood, have spent their entire career at their alma mater.
“Home is where the heart is,” said Hufstedler, a Sheffield graduate who returned home in 2011 to coach the Bulldogs. “It was a situation where I wanted to help build the tradition back, to rebuild the program.”
Hufstedler said it wasn’t a life-long ambition to coach at Sheffield, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come home when it was presented.
“Once I left I didn’t think about coming back,” he said. “I was so wrapped up about what I was doing I didn’t think about it. Once the position came open, I was like ‘it’s the perfect place. It’s where I need to be.”
Hufstedler married a Sheffield girl — Erin Wright — who happened to be the daughter of longtime Bulldogs coach Johnny Wright. Hufstedler spent most of his career following Wright from stop to stop before coming home.
For Erin Hufstedler, returning to Sheffield means “I’ve made the full circle.”
“My dad was the coach here, so for 13 years all we knew was Sheffield,” she said. “I didn’t know coaches moved around a lot until my dad went to Dora. I learned that coaches don’t always stay in one place along time.”
Now, she’s happy to be at Sheffield.
“I’m enjoying being home. I graduated from Sheffield. I played softball and was a cheerleader at Sheffield. My kids are doing the same thing, going to games and pretty much living at the football field,” she said.
At Rogers, Randall Martin made two coaching stops before returning to Greenhill. After serving as an assistant, Martin moved up to head coach this season with the abrupt resignation of longtime coach Dan Beavers before the season.
“I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to come back here,” he said. “There’s a lot of positives to being the coach here. I know a lot of people in the community and everybody has been very supportive. I like the type of kids I get to coach up here. They are hard working kids.”
Martin said there have been few surprises since he returned.
“It’s what I expected,” he said. “There’s a lot of new faces around here from when I played here, but it’s a great place to be.”
Hackleburg coach Rod Hudson knew he wanted to coach at home when he got out of college. Before that happened, he had stops at Parrish High School and Winfield High School. Seventeen years late, Hudson has ascended to head baseball and football coach at his alma mater.
I’m just a Hackleburg boy,” he said. “I wanted to get back here as quickly as I could. Home is home.”
Hudson doesn’t even mind the occasional criticism that comes his way.
“They expect to win here,” he said. “I expect to win here. My wife is probably my biggest critic. She expects as much out of our team as I do.”
Having a staff filled with alumni is beneficial, said Deshler coach John Mothershed, whose staff is filled with Deshler grads.
“We have got good stability on our staff and they’ve all been in our system for a long time,” he said.
Central coach Heath Wood has never strayed from his roots. He played for the Wildcats and got his start as a student assistant when Ikey Fowler was the head coach. Now, he’s in his second year as the head coach.
“Central is where I want to be,” he said. “I’m proud of where I’m from and the community I live in. I wouldn’t leave here to go anywhere else.”
Wood is now coaching the children of former teammates.
“You see a lot of the same qualities in their kids as when they played,” he said. “It’s good kind of knowing the people you are dealing with. Everybody out here does a good job supporting us.”
For Erin Hufstedler, coming home brought a flood of memories. She sits in the same seat in the bleachers that her mother sat in when he dad was coaching the Bulldogs.
“It’s crazy how it worked out,” she said. “I’ve taken my mother’s role.”
Contact Gregg Dewalt at 256-740-5748 or email@example.com. Follow @greggdewalt on Twitter.