First Posted: 1/15/2009
ROWLAND - In a move that he calls his “homecoming,” new South Robeson High football coach Willie George is looking forward to returning to his old stomping grounds.
George, who was a baseball coach and a football assistant at South Robeson for a combined 10 seasons, formally accepted the football coaching position on Tuesday. He replaces former coach Barry Leonard, who resigned in November after a 3-9 season and a first-round playoff loss.
George spent the 2006 season as the defensive coordinator at St. Pauls.
“The toughest game for me last season was against South Robeson,” said George, who got his first coaching job at South Robeson in 1994. “We won handily, but that was probably the least enjoyable win I've ever had.
“I had been at South Robeson for so long, that felt like home to me. Kids were coming up to me before the game, and Coach Leonard is a good friend of mine. So it was just a tough situation.”
George said that it will be just as tough for him now to leave St. Pauls, where he said he has been treated well and has developed relationships with the Bulldogs players and administration.
“It's a bittersweet situation for me, but it was an opportunity and I felt like I had to take it,” he said. “It's sweet going back home to a community that I know and love, but St. Pauls is a great school and they're going to be fine with or without me.”
Jerome Hunt, the South Robeson athletics director and baseball coach, said he is looking forward to working with George.
“He's familiar with this area and the community and we feel like he's going to be a good disciplinarian and get this football program headed in the right direction,” Hunt said.
After eight seasons as South Robeson's baseball coach, George resigned in November of 2005. He left following the dismissal of former athletics director Corky Hayes and basketball coach Travis Pait were dismissed by former Principal Jesse McCormick over the disciplining of a player.
George said he doesn't blame his controversial exit solely on McCormick. But he has discussed the incident with current South Robeson Principal DeRay Cole and was assured a similar situation would not occur.
“I don't blame Mr. McCormick for everything that happened,” he said. “I do think he was at fault a little bit, but … the situation is behind us.
“I've heard nothing but great things about Principal Cole and I talked with him to make sure we were on the same page. I didn't want that same scenario to play out. I can't afford that in my career.”
George, who said he plans on meeting with the South Robeson players on Thursday morning, said he isn't using this job as a stepping stone.
“I'm not going to South Robeson on the terms of going for a year or two years and then going somewhere else,” he said. “That's not fair to them. I plan on staying there for a while.”