Second chance

Hickman returns as Wirt County football coach

Photo courtesy Bo Wriston Jason Hickman, who guided the Wirt County football team from 2008-2015, is the first person in program history to have two stints as the head coach of the Tigers.

ELIZABETH — Second chances in life don’t always come around, but that’s not the case for “new” Wirt County High School head football coach Jason Hickman.

In 2008, Hickman became the 24th all-time coach in Tiger history.

Now, after spending three years as an assistant head coach for Paul Burdette at Roane County, Hickman is back in the saddle as the leader of the orange and black once again.

During his previous eight-year tenure, Hickman guided the Tigers to a quartet of Class A postseason appearances, which included a 10-3 campaign in 2010 and a berth in the state semifinals.

He went 46-41 overall and is now the first person to have two stints as the leader of the Tigers.

“You don’t get a second opportunity in life all the time and I’m glad to have it,” admitted Hickman, who noted former Tiger head coach Isac Osborne is still helping out in the weight room.

“I’m excited about it. We’re going after some kids and trying to get some other kids out who haven’t been playing.

With a new person coming in, sometimes you are able to pick up some guys who are on the fence.”

The physical education teacher at Spencer Middle School admitted, “the last three years at Roane, first of all, that was a great experience. I had a great time with those guys. They are great people and I enjoyed it a lot. It was just a family decision and coach Burdette and those guys understand the decision.

“That’s what they preach up there (family). They get it and they understand. During those three years I was able to reflect and think about the good and the bad experiences (at Wirt). We had some really, really highs and we had some tough years.”

The coach admitted during the past three years while being in Spencer he was missing out on “different things the kids are involved in. (Wife) Gayle is from Wirt County and the kids are here.

“It just wasn’t working out like I thought it might. When it opened up, a couple people mentioned it to Gayle and she said I didn’t think he would (apply).”

Hickman also stressed the importance of Osborne “helping out and staying around. That’s a big deal. We have a decent amount of kids in baseball and track. That’s fine and they aren’t able to get in the weight room as much as we like.

“We are near 20-some most days and that’s not bad. Some of the track kids come in and lift after practice and we’ve got some middle school kids coming.”

Current assistants Taz Yoak and Ben Moore “will still be on staff as paid assistants and other folks will help out when they can,” said the new Tiger boss. “Joe Villers will be around as much as he can. He’s back in the area. He’s actually working in Spencer now at the high school, which is weird. He has some military responsibilities, but he’ll be around and help when he can.

“Josh Ellison, a former player, helped out last year and he’s a real energetic guy. We need those young energetic guys to get everyone fired up. As far as Eddie Powell. He helped last year when he could and he owns his own business and he’ll be around from time to time. Scotty Lowe, he was a former player of mine and a two-time all-state lineman for us. He does a good job and he’s really smart with a bright young mind. I’m glad to have him on staff as well.”

Prior to the three-week summer period, Hickman said the coaching staff plans to use four days at the end of May to install the offense and defense.

“We want to try and get a little bit of a jump-start on that so we are not starting on ground zero in June,” added the coach.

Wirt County is set to open the 2019 campaign at 7 p.m. Aug. 30 in Mt. Zion against coach Hickman’s alma mater Calhoun County.

“It’s home,” Hickman said of Wirt County. “It’s where my wife and kids were. It felt like the right time to come back and get back in the saddle again.”