Last year, Michael Davis made the difficult decision to leave Crossville and rejoin the coaching staff at the place where he grew up in Geraldine High School.
Davis’ decision to return home took the next step as he was announced as the newest head coach of the Bulldogs football team, taking over for Brad Waldrop.
“Last year I had the opportunity to come home,” Davis said. “And it was a really hard decision for me because it’s one of those things where you really don’t want to come home if it’s too early, so I did a lot of praying with my family and we thought it was time to come on home. We have a daughter that started kindergarten, and took a position on coach Waldrop’s staff and it just fell into place. It’s like the Lord’s will for my own life, and I feel like it’s in the works, unfolding right in front of my eyes.”
According to Geraldine Principal Jason Mayfield, Davis checked all the boxes and then some that the school was looking for in its next head football coach, with Davis standing out among the 18 candidates that applied for the opening. According to Mayfield, Davis was one of three finalists for the spot before his selection.
“Primary to the plans of the three finalist was a clear desire to develop young men,” Mayfield told The Reporter via email. “Obviously, player development is a key to a winning program. But these coaches and Michael especially focused on developing the whole person, not just the athlete. Michael included opportunities for our young men to grow athletically, academically, socially, growing as leaders, preparing to be solid men in the community, strong husbands and fathers.
“Michael has an amazing life story that includes perseverance and success. Michael has the ability to relate his message of success to all of our students regardless of their life circumstances. His heart is wrapped up in Geraldine High School and our community. I’m pretty sure he has purple pride running deep in his blood.”
For Davis, who graduated from Geraldine in 2013, knowing what the school has been in the past, and what the expectations are for a school with deep athletic tradition is something he’s embraced since his playing days.
“It’s exciting, it really is,” Davis said of the chance to coach the team he played for. “This is where I went to school and it’s a special place to be. It holds a special place in my heart, this is where I want to be. I know what Geraldine football is capable of and where it’s been, there’s a rich tradition here and a lot of pride in this school. The standard is high, and the expectation is high. It’s just a great place to be.”
That local knowledge and spending last season on Waldrop’s staff coaching running backs has helped Davis transition into the head coaching spot, even with his hire coming fairly late in the coaching cycle. He thinks it also gave him a different perspective on the team and school than a potential outside hire may have brought in, and has allowed him to already hit the ground running thanks to his prior work with the student-athletes at the school.
“From growing up here and going to school here, I’m in a unique position from anyone else that applied to this job,” Davis said. “I was a player in this system, a player in this school, and this past year I was an assistant on staff here, so I’ve had a year to grow with these guys that are already here, we’ve started developing that relationship from a player-coach standpoint, so it was a no-brainer because I love these kids. They work hard, they’re hungry for success, they want to do things right, so all the tools and intangibles are there. It’s just a matter of us getting started, putting a plan into place and laying the foundation.”
Davis noted that with Geraldine being a smaller school that will have a smaller coaching staff, his experiences playing both sides of the ball in high school, and his coaching experiences on both offense and defense, gives him a full perspective of what needs attention as a head coach.
“At our level you can’t really specialize because your coaching staff is limited and it’s very small,” Davis said. “In high school I played both sides of the ball, primarily on the offensive side of the ball, but when I got into college I played on the defensive side, and so I feel like as a coach, especially as a head coach, with your staff limited, you have to really be well-rounded because you never know who you can bring in. You adapt to the staff that you’re allowed to bring in.”
As for a coaching staff, Davis has retained a pair of longtime assistants who share a common thread in his mind: bleeding purple.
“Coach Jamie Gilbert is going to stay on staff,” Davis said. “He’s a phenomenal help, he’s all over the place year-round, he’s a great help and he bleeds purple. And then coach Carlos Benitez, he’s a volunteer, he’s helped since he graduated in 2010, and he bleeds purple as well. But there’s potential to add to that, and we’re looking to build our staff.”
Davis and the Bulldogs will kick things into high gear in the coming days with spring practices, culminating with a spring game at Section on May 21, where they will play two quarters against Section, followed by two quarters against Valley Head.