HARKER HEIGHTS — When Jerry Edwards returned to his hotel room after spending the day enjoying the sun and sand on the beautiful Caribbean beaches of the Riviera Maya he noticed a voicemail on his cellphone.
In the midst of a nine-year anniversary vacation with his wife Jillian, the 34-year-old father of three boys was brought back to reality by news that would change his family’s future. The message was from Steve Cook, Killeen ISD’s chief personnel officer. Edwards had been selected as the next head football coach and athletic coordinator at Harker Heights.
“I didn’t want my vacation to end because we were having a good time relaxing, but at the same time I was just itching to get here and get going,” Edwards said.
Edwards interviewed last Wednesday and took off for the Riviera the next morning for five days, flying back into San Antonio late Monday evening.
Edwards was up at 5 a.m. the next morning and drove 2½ hours to Harker Heights to hit the ground running with less than a month until the start of preseason practices Aug. 12.
“It’s a full sprint, but it’s just like everything, you’ve got to take one step at a time,” Edwards said. “This is my first day here and I’m getting my feet wet meeting everybody here, kind of getting the layout with how everything works, and I’ll spend the next
couple of days doing that.”
Making the transition
The window for Edwards to put his stamp on the Heights program entering his first season is not ideal.
“There’s a lot of changes and things I’d like to do (with regard) to my belief system, but we’re not going to do everything day one,” Edwards said. “There’s some principles I think are important that you have to instill right away, and then there are some other things that you can do over time.”
Edwards hopes to bring in several assistant coaches from outside KISD, depending on their contract situation with other districts, and install his own offensive and defensive philosophies, including moving to a traditional 4-3 defense.
“You have to prioritize what you’ve got to do and how you want to go about it. And part of that is going to be meeting with the staff here and the guys that I can hopefully bring in, talking with them and getting a game plan together,” Edwards said.
A self-described “kids” coach, Edwards met with a small assortment of players Tuesday, including rising senior running back Marcus Anderson II, and then made his rounds shaking hands and introducing himself to teachers, administrators and other coaches littered around the school.
“A lot of (the players I met) were seniors and I (told them) ‘we’re going to send you out in style,’ and we’re going to do our best (to accomplish that),” Edwards said. “We’ll just take one step at a time, transition in and we’re going to be ready come Aug. 12.”
Edwards replaces former coach Mike Mullins, who resigned June 18 to take an assistant coaching position with defending 3A champion Navasota. Mullins was 14-27 in four seasons at Harker Heights.
“I’ve always had this as my ultimate goal, and anybody that’s worked with me before can tell you that, just my drive and my work ethic has led me to this point and I’ve been blessed along the way,” Edwards said. “I’m as happy as I can be and excited to get going at Harker Heights.”
The right fit
Harker Heights is Edwards’ first head coaching job, coming six months after being passed over for the Ellison opening that ultimately went to Trent Gregory on Jan. 17.
“Luckily, God opens doors for you ... when one door closes another opens and I felt like that was just the ultimate plan,” Edwards said.
After being one of three finalists for the Eagles’ post, and rumored first runner-up, Edwards beat out five other finalists for the Knights’ head job, including three inner-district candidates.
“I think that interview opened the door for this (opportunity). They got know what I was all about,” Edwards said of the Ellison job. “I think Ellison and Harker Heights are two different situations, and I felt that the committee looked at that and they felt coach Gregory was a better fit for Ellison, and I was fine with that.”
Previously, Edwards spent the last five years as the defensive coordinator at Mansfield, where he helped a Tigers program that had never won a playoff game to four postseason appearances and five playoff victories during his tenure.
Prior to that, Edwards spent six years as a varsity assistant at both 5A Fort Bend Clements (2004-07) and 1A Milano (2002-04) after graduating from Texas A&M with a master’s of education.
“We’re going to win every day, that’s our ultimate goal — win the day,” Edwards said. “Whether it’s in the classroom, on the field or in life, I want you to win every day. And if you win enough days in a row, it’ll lead to positive things.”