About this series
Throughout the summer, The Times will conduct a series of interviews with each of the area’s 20 high school football coaches.
Thursday: Riverside’s Gary Downs
July 31: Union County’s Brian Allison
Aug. 2: West Hall’s Tony Lotti
Aug. 7: White County’s Bill Ballard
Aug. 9: Lumpkin County’s Tommy Jones
Towns County football coach Kyle Langford considers the mountains his home, even though he never lived in the northern half of the state before taking the job in Hiawassee in 2007.
Winning has been a challenge for the Indians, even though they posted a 7-3 mark his second season in charge. Langford says he’s still trying to create an environment where the entire community gets excited about the program.
Though Towns County is still playing a non-region schedule, Langford says once it becomes eligible, the program’s first playoff appearance will go a long way to reaching that goal.
Last week, Langford, who left an assistant coaching position at Hawkinsville High after the 2006 season to take his first head-coaching position, spoke with The Times about what led him so far from his hometown of Cordele, the direction of the program and what he enjoys about living in the mountains.
Question: What was your coaching background before you went to Towns County?
Answer: I spend three seasons at Lowndes High (1995-97) as defensive line coach, one season at Lee County (1998) coaching running backs, very close to Albany, then seven seasons at Hawkinsville (1999-2006) and coached quarterbacks primarily, but also worked with the defensive backs.
Question: How does it help that you’ve coached so many different positions on the field?
Answer: Well, some of those positions were actually not my first choice, but you coach what you’re needed to coach. You learned and did it the way the program wanted it to be done. That helped me where I have something to draw back on at every position.
The only thing I wish I would have coached was offensive line. I wish I could have coached that a couple of seasons because I think that’s a really fascinating part of the game.
Question: How did that help you transition into becoming a head coach?
Answer: It helps me understand that each phase of the game has equal importance. You’d like to think that offense is the most important, carries all the weight and you need to put all your best players there. But that’s not the case.
Actually, you need to load up a little more on defense. I have empathy for all the coaches I’ve worked for and all the guys that work with me now because I’ve done it before.
Question: Since you’re from South Georgia, what drew you to Towns County?
Answer: Well, I was a baseball coach at Hawkinsville also. And I traveled up to Clayton to do a camp with coach Robert Sapp about 10 years ago. I got home and told my wife that this is where we need to be and we’re going to retire up there.
And then just as crazy as it could be, the job opened up here. I had a friend call and say “you’ve been running mouth about living in these mountains, why don’t you call Towns County?” Well, I called them and, lo and behold, got the job. It was actually the first time my wife, Addy, even saw the mountains before.
Question: Since you’ve coached with big football programs in the past, what is the environment like for football at Towns County?
Answer: It’s a lot different. It’s still very important to our kids. To our community, it’s becoming more important. When we got here, I thought they wanted to support the program but didn’t know how to get there.
At first, they really didn’t know if they really wanted to support a program. At schools like Hawkinsville and Lowndes, that’s already built in. They have it marked on the calendar and when the time comes, they’re ready to get out, travel the countryside and get after it.
They expect a certain level of success at those places. We’re trying to get to the point here where we’re going to be consistent and put a good product on the field to watch. That was the first step was giving the people something to watch that they could enjoy coming to see. I think it’s important because football teaches so much about life, themselves, being selfless and having character. Once you get the community to understand that, the support starts to grow.
Question: How long do you plan to play a non-region schedule?
Answer: You know, when we got here, the plan was to go non-region a couple more years then jump back into region play. It’s hard for me every year to get to the end of the year, and know that you’re not playing for anything.
You’re playing for your teammates and pride, and all that, but we want a chance to compete for playoff spots. That’s just the way I’m made up. That’s all I’ve ever known. So it’s been tough doing that. But, then again, if we jump into the region like we thought about doing, and I come off a year like the previous year with numbers in the mid 20s, then I’m essentially ending the program myself. I’m killing it. I told the kids, when you’re ready to play a region schedule, then I’m ready.
And what I mean by that, I need 35 kids I can count on every year. That is half the battle. As our participation gets better and people start to expect things, then we’ll see the next step happen. I need to trust we have human beings around here that want to play big-time football. I want them to trust that I’m going to do what’s best for them.
At this point, it’s not the case where I don’t have to worry that we’ll have 35 or 40 kids every year and not have to worry about it. I’m still having to go out and beat the bushes and preach what we’re doing. We just haven’t gotten to that — I think it’s coming real soon — where we can say, “hey, we’re starting football next week, we got 40 kids out there; let’s roll.”
Question: Do you like the small-town life that Hiawassee provides?
Answer: I love it. I really feel like the people here have taken me and my family in as one of their own. I feel like the mountains are my home. We like going back to Cordele and Moultrie (wife’s hometown), but we feel like this is our home now. It’s just because of the great people here. And it’s the kids. We never have discipline problems with the kids. They’re the kind of people that are going to do the right thing and live lives we can be proud of on and off the field. And that’s what keeps me drawn here. And there are hard times on Friday nights when you’re not as successful as you want to be, but it’s not because the kids aren’t trying. It’s not because the coaches aren’t working hard. It’s just that we’re not good enough yet.