“It was mere swagger and challenge; but in this particular, as in many others, blustering assertion goes for proof, half over the world.”

— Charles Dickens, “Little Dorrit”

While the sun is just starting its climb into the morning sky, a figure emerges from the back doors of the Harker Heights field house. It’s 6:59 a.m. Monday, and players gathered on the practice turf eager with anticipation.

Like a grandfather clock striking midnight, first-time head coach Jerry Edwards steps through the double red doors with a whistle in one hand, a play sheet in the other and a skip in his step.

“I can’t wait, I’m itching — I wish it was tomorrow,” Edwards said this week.

While preseason practices kicked off at the lower levels, with teams at the 3A-and-below divisions strapping on pads for the first time today, the 4A and 5A programs won’t begin until Monday, beginning with four days of non-contact conditioning.

Hired exactly one month ago, Harker Heights’ new head football coach and athletic director is a self-described players coach who feeds off his opportunity to affect the lives of the younger generation. Edwards is hoping to connect with his players by getting down to their level, understanding and embracing what drives today’s urban youth.

“We’re going to bring the swagger back,” he said.

Swagger? Is Edwards channeling his inner Lil’ Wayne?

Yeeeaah! OK! No, of course not.

But at least for the 34-year-old, red-haired father of three, who’s been described as a new-school coach with old-school philosophies, swagger isn’t necessarily a foreign concept.

It might not be the same kind of “swagga” that rap moguls like T.I. or Jay-Z bring to the party, but it may be exactly what the kids at Harker Heights need.

“It’s just an approach, you approach everything that you’re going to win whatever it is and you’re going to carry a winning attitude around with you at all times,” Edwards said.

While it was obvious that the Knights were starting to develop some of that “winning attitude” back under former coach Mike Mullins, Edwards hopes to mainline the process by injecting swagger into the vein of the program with a hypodermic needle. So far, the reception has been positive.

Players shuffled in and out of the field house with regularity the last few weeks as they try to get to know their new head coach.

He, like them, is curious about the unknown. He doesn’t know what to expect at 7:01 Monday morning.

But that only feeds his excitement.

“I’m ready to get out there on the turf,” he said.

Although he hasn’t been able to bring in “his” guys — coaches he knows and he’s comfortable around — due to the timing of his hiring, Edwards has managed to infuse a bit of new blood into the program by hiring several young, fresh-faced coaches who will undoubtedly help out at the lower levels.

Like a transfusion of O-positive, that new blood — Edwards included — is already fast at work trying to mix with the old blood on staff to develop the perfect mix that is going to keep Harker Heights running effectively and moving in the right direction.

Three weeks into his first head coaching job, Edwards is already fostering enthusiasm with his youthful approach.

But the real work starts Monday, when several hundred Knights descend on the Harker Heights field house, all looking at one man to show them the way.

And that man — Edwards — will be the one strutting onto the practice field.

Contact Alex Byington at alexb@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7566

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