After a two-year stint as a college coach, 32-year coaching veteran Joey McQueen is returning to his roots and to the area, accepting the athletic director-head football coach position at Florence during a school board meeting Monday evening.
McQueen spent five years at Lampasas, including three years as head coach, where he turned around the Badgers’ football program. Following a 20-game losing streak, McQueen guided Lampasas to its first district championship in 25 years before accepting a position as wide receivers coach at Hardin-Simmons. Now, McQueen will look to transform the Buffaloes, who went 1-9 last season.
McQueen talked with the Herald’s Clay Whittington.
So, what brings you back to high school football?
I missed Friday nights. ... It’s not an easy situation, and they are in a dang-tough district, but one of the board members asked me, ‘Why Florence?’ I said, ‘Why not?’ I like the attitude Sam Atwood has as a superintendent, and I just think it is a situation where I can come in and work the kids hard. He said, ‘Well, how do you get them motivated?’ I said, ‘You’ve got to show them you care and you’ve got to go in and work hard because if they know you are going to work hard, then they are going to work hard for you.’
I’m excited, I really am. I went and talked to my coach at Hardin-Simmons and told him, and when I told him he looked at me and said, ‘Are you serious? You want to go back to high school?’ I said, ‘Yes sir. I miss Friday nights.’ The atmosphere is totally different, and I think I’m more valuable at a high school setting than a college setting. The two years I spent at Hardin-Simmons was awesome. I learned a lot about the passing game, but that doesn’t mean we’ll pass a lot, but I learned a lot from it.
I’m going to go down one day next week to meet the boys and girls and the coaches, so when I start on Jan. 6, I can hit the ground running.
Florence is coming off a rough season. What are your thoughts on the team?
It can’t go anywhere but up. The cutoff (for realignment) is 314 and they turned in 315, so they are the smallest Class 3A, Division I school, but that is irrelevant because the cutoff goes from 314 to like 462, so it is not like the old way where it went from 300 all the way up to 900. It is not that big of a disparity, but the bottom line is you’ve got to get in there and change the culture, and let them know it can happen. When we went to Lampasas, it was the same way. We turned it around there, and I think it can be done here.
It is a very similar situation as Lampasas, so that experience should help, right?
Yeah, they’ve got the same type of kids. They are rural kids, who are involved in everything like band and (agriculture) and other sports. First, I’m the football coach, but I’m also the athletic director, so I want all of our programs to do good. At Lampasas, we weren’t good all the time at everything, but we are good at some things some times. A lot of good things happened at Lampasas. It just has to be a mindset. Sometimes, when you go into a new place, you have to change that mindset, and that is what I’m hoping happens.
What are your thoughts on the athletic program as a whole?
I can’t really speak on how many teams have made the playoffs, but I don’t think it is a lot, and that is something we have to change. What we are going to have to do is just come in and let them know that it can be us, and why not Florence? If we are going to get this changed, it is going to take us, meaning administration, the school board, the town’s people and specifically the kids, they are going to have to give up some leisure time and sacrifice some things. When you do that, things start going good and you start understanding what you are working for is worth something. That is going to have to be across the board on the girls’ side and the guys’ side.
What specifically drew you to Florence?
I didn’t really apply to a lot of head football positions, but I applied for some athletic director positions, and I actually had an interview at (Southlake) Carroll ISD, but I turned it down because it just didn’t feel right. It was just as an AD. As soon as Mr. Atwood called me, I was just like, ‘This guy really wants to get this program turned around.’ If he is that enthused about it then I’m ready to get down there and see what we can do with it just because of that attitude.
Do you enjoy turning programs around?
God has always told me, ‘You are going to go to places that haven’t won in a while and you are going to try and help them turn it around.’ So, I kind of like that. I haven’t met any of the coaches. I’ll meet them next week and find out if they are ready to get this thing turned around. Hopefully, that is their attitude and we can go forward because it is not going to be done by me alone. It is going to be done by about four different entities, and they’ve all got to be on the same page.