The consensus was clear: Trent Gregory is the man to return Ellison to its former glory.
After three days of interviews this week, the Killeen Independent School District hiring committee selected Gregory as the Eagles’ next head football coach and athletic coordinator Thursday.
“I think he’s a great fit for Ellison. I think he’s exactly what they need,” KISD Athletic Director Tom Rogers said. “And we had a lot of really good candidates. We spent enough time with them to feel he was the special one.”
The Leander Vandegrift offensive line coach was picked from three finalists — including Mansfield defensive coordinator Jerry Edwards and White Settlement Brewer head coach Paul Sharr — after interviewing 14 qualified candidates from an applicant pool of 91.
“Every one of those 91 candidates received a very fair review, we studied their resumes and analyzed what we saw there, and we were looking for examples of prior experience of bringing the kind of leadership we need here,” said Ellison principal David Dominguez. “We wanted to look especially at those who had prior head coaching experience, although that was not a determining factor.”
Dominguez said Gregory, who was the head coach at Austin Anderson from 1996-2007, impressed him with his dedication to education and prioritization of academics, and his interest to community involvement, as well as with his football acumen and outgoing personality.
“He really had a lot of confidence, a precise and coherent vision of how to bring about success on the football field,” Dominguez said. “He drew up plays for us on the whiteboard in his interview and we really felt good about what he wants to do with our football team.”
Among those 11 candidates passed over for a second interview included a 3A head coach with a career 91-36 record and a 10-year playoff streak to his credit, a former Killeen quarterback whose offenses have averaged more than 450 yards per game as offensive coordinator, and the younger brother of the coach who made the Eagles a powerhouse in the late 1990s. Also, despite several applying, no internal candidates from within KISD or Ellison alumni were brought in for initial interviews.
“We did not distinguish between internal and external candidates, we simply applied the items we were looking at in the review fairly across the board to all the candidates,” Dominguez said. “It was just a product of the screenings that we used.”
Sealy athletic director and head football coach Jimmie Mitchell highlighted a strong list of those interviewed by the committee Monday and Tuesday, joined by Kingsville King head coach Robert Wilcox, Garland defensive coordinator Danny Russell, Plano East offensive coordinator Mark Humble — a 1994 graduate of Killeen who followed Billy Spiller as the Roos quarterback — and San Antonio East Central coordinator Barry Walker, the brother of revered former Ellison head coach Robert Walker.
“I thought the process was very, very thorough,” Rogers said. “I know it did happen pretty fast, but we spent a lot of hours (working on it).”
The KISD hiring committee consisted of Dominguez, Rogers, deputy superintendent John Craft, chief personnel officer Steve Cook, assistant athletic director Kim Wilson, and Ellison assistant principal Rhea Bell.
Craft was principal at Mansfield Timberview in 2008 when Gregory was the offensive coordinator there.
Before moving back home to Austin in 2009 to coach at Leander Vandegrift, Gregory spent a decade (1996-2007) as the head coach of his alma mater, Austin Anderson, where he compiled a 39-64 overall record with three bi-district playoff appearances and four winning seasons (2000-2003).
“The thing that stood out about coach Gregory to me was during his time as head coach at Anderson, there were three separate years where the team made playoff runs, and we’re trying to bring back a culture here of expectations of winning and expectations of getting to the postseason with our football program,” Dominguez said.
By comparison, in 11 years as a head coach at both 3A Sealy and Sinton, Mitchell has a career 91-36 record and made the playoffs 10 straight years (2002-2011).
Mitchell took both Sealy and Sinton programs from 2-8 seasons the year before he joined the staff to playoff appearances in his first season. After taking over as head coach, Mitchell led the Pirates to three consecutive state quarterfinal appearances and four consecutive undefeated runs through District 30-3A (2002-05). In six years as the head coach at Sealy, Mitchell has gone 48-19 with five straight playoff appearances (2007-2011), including an 11-1 regional finalist campaign in 2009.
Humble, who threw for more than 4,000 yards quarterbacking Killeen from 1992-93, has spearheaded a Plano East offense that has averaged 453 yards per game in his last four seasons as offensive coordinator.
Walker is the younger brother of Robert Walker, who led the Eagles to three playoff appearances in four years (1995-98), including a state semifinalist appearance in 1996 and a 12-0 run before losing in the regional finals in 1997. Barry Walker spent last season as a coordinator under his brother Robert at San Antonio East Central. Robert Walker has since been named the next head coach at Conroe.
Ellison head football coach applicants
91 total, 14 interviewed, three finalists
- Michael Arogbonlo, offensive coordinator at Alief Taylor— led offense that averaged 314.75 ypg in 2012.
- Joe Cary, offensive coordinator at Port Neches-Groves— led offense that averaged 37.5 ppg and 425 ypg the last two years.
- Robert Draper, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Liberty Hill — former Copperas Cove graduate, has been a part of two state championship teams
- *Jerry Edwards, defensive coordinator at Mansfield — defense that finished in the top 2 in district in total yardage, points and rushing yards allowed in 4 of 5 years
- Brent Graham, defensive coordinator at Sherman— two-time District 13-4A champion defense, including state quarterfinal run in 2011.
- ^Trent Gregory, offensive line coach at Leander Vandegrift— former head coach at Austin Anderson, where he had four winning seasons in 10 years, overall record of 39-64.
- Mark Humble, offensive coordinator at Plano East— former Killeen QB whose offenses averaged 453 ypg in last four years.
- Jimmie Mitchell, athletic director/head coach at Sealy— career 91-36 record in 11 years as HC at Sinton and Sealy.
- Ross Moore, co-defensive coordinator at Weslaco— led a defense that allowed an average of 17.8 ppg last three years, including 14.3 ppg in 10-2 season in 2011.
- Danny Russell, defensive coordinator at Garland— team went 13-0 in district the last two seasons, defense allowed an average of 9.6 ppg in 2011.
- *Paul Sharr, head coach at White Settlement Brewer— took 13-38 program from 2003-07 to 23-27 since 2008.
- Scott Stewart, defensive coordinator at Round Rock Stony Point— defense allowed an average of 23.78 ppg the last two years.
- Barry Walker, defensive/offensive coordinator at San Antonio East Central— brother of former Ellison head coach Robert Walker, was on Eagles staff from 1995-98.
- Robert Wilcox, athletic director/head coach at Kingsville King— career 115-93 record, helped turn around winless King program into a 7-5 district champion in 2012.
* — finalist; ^ — hired.