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.
Tuesday: Jefferson’s T. McFerrin
July 12: Lakeview’s Matthew Gruhn
July 17: Jackson County’s Benji Harrison
July 19: North Hall’s Bob Christmas
July 24: Towns County’s Kyle Langford
July 26: 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
New Johnson High football coach Jason Roquemore loves what he does.
It’s a good thing, because he has less time than usual to prepare his team for another football season, all the while installing his schemes and philosophies to try to improve on last season’s 0-10 finish.
Hired in June after the Knights conducted a quick search to find a successor for the departed Paul Friel, Roquemore still has a lot of work to do before Johnson hosts West Hall in the season opener on Aug. 24 in the annual Battle of Oakwood, a week before the regular start to the season.
The Times talked with Roquemore for a few minutes in the middle of another busy day recently to find out where he’s coming from and where he plans to take the Knights as he gets his first season of being a head coach under way.
Question: When did you start playing football?
Answer: Probably when I was five or six years old, started out playing pound ball, and played through middle school. Fell in love with the game, played in high school, and had a chance to go play, get a taste of college football, I’ve always loved the game. Just what it teaches, what it’s taught me as a person, so I just stuck with it.
Q: What position did you play?
A: Well, I was a linebacker, a very small linebacker, but I played linebacker most of my middle to high school and into college. It’s where I got my fit.
Q: What attracted you to the defensive side of the ball?
A: That’s just kind of in the blood. Us defensive guys, we’re just a different breed. We love that side of the ball. The coaches I had at the time saw something that I just fit. Basically, it just kind of grew on me, and I always enjoyed it. I always enjoyed playing fast and playing with aggression.
Q: I know a lot of people are excited by offense, but how important is it to have a good defense?
A: A lot people say, offense wins games, defense wins championships, but you know, it’s a total team effort, is what you have to understand. Offense, defense, special teams, all of those play crucial roles when you’re trying to win a football game. What the casual fan don’t understand is just how hard it is to win a football game, all the work that goes in to try to win a football game. So defensively, our kids, A: we want to play good, sound fundamental defense, we want to play as a unit, we want to give our offense a short field, and we want to do our part, create turnovers, create big plays on our side basically to help our offense out.
Q: So, with your offense, are you more conservative or are you going to try to be more innovative?
A: I’m not a rocket scientist, but if you go back and you watch us on film, we’ve got to throw the football more. There’s times when folks had 8, 9, sometimes 10 (in the box), safeties playing at 8 yards, so we’re going to do a better job of keeping people honest. Take our shots and be aggressive in the passing game. But, at the same time, we’re going to be very physical, we’re not going to be a finesse team, we’re not trying to trick you. We’re going to be very simple. We feel like our philosophy as a staff is, simple is better for our kids. So, the things that we do we’re going to try to do extremely well, and just take it from there.
Q: So, have you ever played a non-region schedule before?
A: Its kind of funny, because at North Cobb Christian last year, we did play a non-region schedule. That program was just getting off the ground, and it was great to be a part of that program, get them started, so I don’t put a whole lot of stock in the whole region vs. non-region deal. Our kids are going to go out and compete, no matter who we play, what region they’re in, or how that kind of pans out. We want to go out and do our very best every time we step out on the field, whether that be a practice or a game, or whatever the case may be. I don’t think there’s any drawbacks to us playing a non-region schedule. I think that decision was made with the best interest of our kids.
Q: I know one of the issues with Johnson has been with the number of players. How do you plan to address that problem? What’s the best way to keep people?
A: We’ve got to get our community excited about our program, because I think that’s where it starts. And when we’re talking about community, we’re talking about our faculty and staff at school, our community, our student body is a big thing, and success comes in a lot of different shapes, fashions and forms. It’s going to be a process, but I think right now we’ve got 68, we picked up a couple in the last couple of days, which has been exciting. In the weight room we’re going to do things from a staff standpoint, that excitement, that enthusiasm. And the kids that are in the school and have played, or are thinking about playing, we’re giving them the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves. And, we want all of our kids to receive the benefits of the program, and by far that’s one of our most important goals.
Q: I’m sure you’re busy and it’s hard to think about right now, but what are your hobbies?
A: I used to have some hobbies. I’m just like the normal guy. I love to fish, love spending time with family, I like to work out, like to exercise. I teach physical education, so that’s always been a big part of my life. But just being with the family, going to a movie, I get a lot of joy from simple things in my life.
Q: So what’s your family like?
A: I have a 4-year-old son, currently not married, actually divorced, but I have a 4-year-old son, who’s going to start Pre-K in the Fall, so I’m excited about that. And just looking forward, he’s part of this process too. I’m looking forward to being able to share the things that happen here at Johnson with him.
Q: Have you already put in place all of the rule changes the GHSA has passed?
A: Georgia High School’s already passed the rule to practice no more than three hours a day, and we’re well under that, we’ve been going about 2 ½ hours. The field time that we do get, we try to maximize, we just don’t want to be out there to be out there. But we’re having a great time, and I told them today, that right now they’re the highlight of my day, outside of my son. I wake up every day just excited to go to work.
Q: Have there already been things about being a head coach that have surprised you?
A: I’ve chased that carrot for so long. And if you’re in this profession, and you don’t really understand unless you’re in it or your married into it, it’s a very demanding job, but its one of those jobs you either love or hate. And from day one when I got into it, this is what I’ve wanted to do. So like I said, I’m having the time of my life. I welcome the challenges, I welcome the things that, for whatever reason, people have said we can’t do, or that’s not going to happen. I think our kids believe that we can be successful, our staff believes that we can be successful, so we just want to come to work every day and make sure we’re all pulling the same end of the rope.