RUSK — Rusk Independent School District officials could have searched for a month of Sundays and would have been hard pressed to find a football coach with a more accomplished resume when it comes to producing playoff football teams.
The RISD Board of Trustees voted (unanimous decision) in a specially-called meeting Thursday night to extend an offer to Jowell Hancock to become the new athletic director and head football coach at Rusk High School.
Hancock, a graduate of Jacksonville High School, immediately accepted the offer.
For the last 20 football seasons Hancock has played a part in mentoring Dayton (Class 5A) High School football teams in the state playoffs — the last five seasons Hancock served as head coach of the Broncos.
And judging by one of the first public comments that Hancock made after taking the job, he apparently doesn't intend on that streak ending any time soon.
When a school board member, laughingly, asked Hancock if he could insure the Eagles would go 8-2 this fall, Hancock replied, “actually it is my goal for us to go 10-0.”
Being in the post season mix would be a welcomed change in Eagleland, as Rusk football teams have qualified for the playoffs only twice in the past 10 years.
Hancock seemed genuinely elated to be taking over the Rusk athletic program.
“It's a great move family wise and in continuing my coaching career,” Hancock said. “I want to help our young men be successful, both on and off the field.
“(RISD Superintendent) Dr. (Scott) Davis stressed to me that we want to have men of character here and we want our boys and girls to know how to play the game and how to conduct themselves. We want to build a program where everyone is proud of Rusk and the students, in the classroom, out in the community and on the playing field.”
Hancock said the first step is easy to define.
“We want to get as many kids involved as we can and we want to get everyone going in the same direction,” he stated. “This is a great school district academically and we want to do the same thing athletically. We want our kids to be proud of themselves and to be able to develop the leadership skills that it takes to be successful.”
Davis said that he was pleased that a man of Hancock's stature was available.
“We are excited to have him,” he said. “I believe our programs will produce strong men that will compete athletically and represent our school and our community well. That's what (Hancock) brings to the table.”
Meanwhile, Hancock said that he is in the process of getting all of the assistant coaches in place at this time.
“We're still in the process of filling some spots on our staff and we want to get the right people in here,” he said. “We're not in a hurry to do that because we want to make sure we get quality applicants and make quality hires that will meet the needs of our kids and that is my job to do that.”
Hancock, a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, posted a 39-20 record as a head coach at Dayton, a perennial power in Southeast Texas.
Hancock said that he will bring a fresh approach to Rusk.
“I think we will be innovative,” he said. “We will look at our personnel and see what schemes would best fit them.
“My philosophy has always been to first develop an offensive line, and from there a defensive line. Everything starts from that point. The game of football is pretty simple and we don't want to try to out think ourselves. The best blocking team, the team that takes care of the ball, and the team that can tackle best is usually the team that wins.”
Hancock outlined three points that will be emphasized with the young men who will wear the Red and Black.
“We will teach fundamentals daily,” said Hancock. “We will stress dependability and accountability, which builds on our work ethic.”
Hancock's mantra at Dayton was “no one will outwork the horseshoe (the school's athletic logo; very similar to that of the Indianapolis Colts)”.
Eagle football teams will soon be known for their superior work ethic as well, according to Hancock.
“There is no substitute or replacement for hard work,” he said. “Football is not a game that you can take short cuts in and expect to be successful.”
Coach Hancock's parents, Gayle and Linda Hancock still live in the area.
Jowell Hancock is married to Tammy (nee Burns, a Jacksonville product also)
The couple have three children, Heath (19), Hunter (17) and Haley (14), who will be attending Rusk High School and playing several sports.