Darren Myles, Carver-Atlanta
1. What is the real difference-maker in winning and losing in Georgia high school football? “The biggest thing is support from the administrative staff. When I speak of that, I mean whether the administration gives the coaches the autonomy to work with student-athletes on and off the field with their overall development, not just football, but academics as well. Each school makes academics a priority, but studies have shown that students that participate in two or more sports achieve higher in academics. We’ve got the No. 5, No. 6 and No. 8 students in our senior class all playing sports. Our No. 1 junior plays sports. We have after-school tutorials and study halls for those who don’t have tutorials. We make it mandatory on Monday and Wednesday, even though it causes us to practice a little later, but it’s worth it in the end. Our administration understands that athletics improve academics and discipline and can change the overall attitude in the building. Of course, you’ve got to have good players to win, and we’re blessed to have had several who have developed in our program over the years. You have to have good, quality assistant coaches who develop them not just as athletes. And then it’s up to the football players themselves and the parents. They have to understand and accept their roles in the program.”
2. Which player that you’ve coached is memorable mostly for his character or inspiration? “I coached my son Darren Jr. and two nephews, Mark Williams Jr. and Kevin Myles Jr. All three came in as freshmen together in 2005, my first year here, and helped build the culture. They worked their tails off, in essence showing the other kids in the program what hard work was. But probably the one player that stands out the most was Delando Cooks. He was so respected, not by just his teammates, but by his classmates. If a kid was laughing at the wrong time, he’d say, ‘What’s funny?’ and that kid would apologize, not because he was afraid but because he respected Delando so much. Our coaches could be in a staff meeting that ran over and we could tell Delando to get them on the field and start stretching and we’d have visitors come by and think there were coaches on the field. Delando was in charge.” [Crooks, an all-state offensive lineman in 2012, is now in graduate school at Vanderbilt.]
3. What is the best atmosphere for a high school game that you’ve experienced away from home? “That would have to be 2007 when we went to play Cairo in the quarterfinals. That was as good as it gets from trying to leave your locker room going on to field with fans lined up, saying they’re going to pour syrup on you, to on the field, just a great environment. [Cairo is famously known as the Syrupmakers.] Even before the game, we stopped for our pregame meal at a local restaurant and they were saying they couldn’t be at the game but they’d all be listening on the radio. The whole town was in. And we must’ve brought three or four busloads of fans. I’m talking about a three-and-half-hour bus ride. Our visitors sideline was packed. We had a huge amount of support.”
4. As a player or coach at any level, which game do you wish you could play again? “One that sticks out recently would be our playoff game last year vs. Clarke Central. We lost 35-32. We had missed three extra points. We gave up two touchdowns on offense. We had a pick six out of the end zone and had a running back stripped and a linebacker ran it for a touchdown. Despite all that, we still had a chance with the ball on the 30-yard line and had fourth-and-6, and I called RPO [run-pass option]. My regret was putting our quarterback in a position to decide whether to hand off or throw. He handed off because there was only one linebacker in the core. I should’ve made it strictly a pass play. That loss has been motivation for us this year. They didn’t want to be knocked out in the first round again.”
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