Marcus Anderson II has been antsy for much of the last month, wondering who would lead the Knights next season.
Now, following the announcement that Mansfield defensive coordinator Jerry Edwards was named the next head football coach and athletic coordinator at Harker Heights, the senior running back is just as nervous to meet the man.
“Everybody’s pretty much ready to meet him. We’re all nervous about it, anxious and nervous at the same time, but we’re going to welcome him in,” said Anderson, who rushed for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns in the final six games of last season after missing the first five with a broken leg.
“So everybody was pretty much on edge. ... We’re all still anxious just to meet him and know what his game plan is for this year.”
Added rising senior receiver Tony Barnes: “We were shocked about who was the head coach, but we thought about it again and it might be a good move for us, so we’re going to move on with it.”
Since Mike Mullins’ abrupt departure June 18 — less than two months before the start of fall practices, which begin Aug. 12 — the Knights’ football program has been racked with uneasiness and worry.
“There’s a lot of anxiety, there’s so much unknown right now,” said Heights offensive coordinator Rob Hagey, who interviewed for the Knights job late Friday afternoon, about two hours before the hiring was announced by KISD.
“(Edwards) has got to come in and talk to the kids and get that anxiety level down a little bit and he’s got to come in and talk with us (coaches) and we need to figure out a plan of attack together. You know, everything’s up in the air for everybody.”
According to KISD spokeswoman Leslie Gilmore, Edwards was out of the country on vacation Friday and unavailable for comment. Edwards, a 34-year-old father of three boys, interviewed Wednesday with two other out-of-district candidates.
Edwards was one of three finalists — and rumored runner-up — for the Ellison opening that went to Trent Gregory on Jan. 18. Gregory, previously the offensive line coach at Leander Vandegrift, was selected among 14 interviewed candidates from an applicant pool of 91.
Edwards clearly stood out even more in a much smaller pool of 33 applicants, six of whom were invited to interview.
“Coach Edwards has demonstrated his abilities to positively impact student athletes on and off the field and we feel his energy, character and commitment to success make him a great fit to lead the Harker Heights High School athletic program,” KISD Deputy Superintendent John Craft said in a statement. Craft was not available for further comment.
Edwards was chosen over five other finalists, including former Houston North Forest head coach and athletic director Plez Atkins, Round Rock Stony Point defensive coordinator Scott Stewart, Killeen co-offensive coordinator Richard Daniels, Heights defensive coordinator Ty Oppermann and Hagey.
“It doesn’t surprise me he got it, but I thought (the hiring committee) was fair and very attentive — I didn’t have a problem with (the process) at all,” Hagey said.
This is KISD’s second straight hire of a head football coach with ties to the Mansfield Independent School District. Craft, who spearheaded both the Ellison and Harker Heights hirings, was a principal at Mansfield Timberview from July 2008 to March 2010.
Early season injuries decimated the Knights (4-7) last season, but Mullins still led the program back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Knights fell to No. 1 DeSoto 62-15 in the bi-district round as Mullins capped his Heights career with a 14-27 record over four seasons.
Now, with less than a month before the beginning of preseason practices, Anderson — like many of his teammates — is just hoping for a return to normalcy.
“I was hoping whatever coach we brought in was going to lead us like a player’s coach, make this a family like we had when coach Mullins was here,” Anderson said. “It didn’t matter if we stayed in-house or we went out-of-house, I was just hoping that whoever we bring in makes (Heights) a family for this year.”