Nowell returns to sidelines as head coach

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NOWELL RETURNS – Former Humboldt High School football coach, Danny Nowell (center) is returning to the sidelines this August as the new head football coach. Nowell coached here in the 70s and 80s before moving to Middle Tennessee and later out of state. Welcoming Nowell to the team are HJSHS principal, James Walker (right) and athletic director, George Yarbro.

by Danny Wade

A former football coach is coming back to his alma mater after being away for 30-plus years. Danny Nowell is the new Humboldt High School football coach.

“I’m pleased to announce the recent hiring of Mr. Daniel Nowell as the new head football coach at Humboldt Jr.&Sr. High School,” Superintendent, Dr. Versie Hamlett said. “Coach Nowell, a Humboldt native, has spent over 35 years in education and coaching.”

Nowell is no stranger to Humboldt. He was born and raised here. After graduating from Humboldt High School, he attended Middle Tennessee State University, graduating in 1970 majoring in pre-med. Nowell said his plans were to get in the medical field.

But those plans changed when he was offered the junior high coaching position here.

“They talked me into the job,” Nowell said reflecting on how his football coaching career got started. “Henry Wooten was principal.”

Nowell said he told Wooten the practice field at Stigall was in bad shape and needed to be fixed. Nowell said he tilled it up and planted Bermuda grass and got it looking good and usable. He did encounter a man riding a horse on the practice field one day, which didn’t set well with him after all the effort put into the field.

In 1972, Nowell moved up to coaching at Humboldt High School where he coached for the next 15 years, the last six as head coach.

“I coached under Coach Po (Jim Poteete) and Jack Cain,” Nowell recalled. “We won the state championship in 1979 under Cain.”

During his tenure in Humboldt, Nowell said he had worked with many fine athletes. One notable that stood out was Kacy Rodgers. Rodgers was named the best defensive player in Tennessee for the West Tennessee region.

“Kacy played defensive end for us his sophomore and junior year,” Nowell said. “His senior year, playing Milan, they ran the ball on the opposite side from Kacy. I switched him to linebacker.”

Rodgers went on to play for the Vols at UT Knoxville, was drafted into the NFL but never made the final roster. He began a career in coaching football at the college ranks before getting hired by legendary coach Bill Parcels and the Dallas Cowboys. He is now the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets.

Another top athlete Nowell coached was Tony Champion.

“Tony played wide receiver his junior year,” Nowell said. “We moved him to quarterback his senior year. Both of those seasons we were undefeated.”

Champion played college ball at UT Martin, was drafted into the NFL but was cut before the season started. He had a successful career as a wide receiver in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“The best player I ever coached was Junior Reid,” Nowell exclaimed. “We played in the Tobacco Bowl in Hartsville, Tennessee. Back then bowl games were big, before the state (tournaments). Junior rushed for 258 yards. Their tailback rushed for 240.”

Reed was also a top-notch track athlete, which Nowell also coached. Nowell said at track meets, Reed would win the high jump, long jump, 100 (yard dash), 200 (yard dash) and anchor of the 4×100 relay. He was good for 50 points at a track meet, Nowell said.

Nowell left Humboldt in 1987 to take a coaching position at Franklin High School as an assistant coach. Nowell became head coach from 1990 through 1996.

“My son was a freshman but he didn’t play football,” Nowell said. “He played baseball and golf, was an all-state catcher.”

So Nowell traded football cleats for baseball and golf cleats where he coached from 1996 until 2000.

“My secondary coach, Tim Johnson, had moved to Knoxville, then came back to Franklin as head coach,” Nowell said of his former football staffer. “I coached (football) under him as his offensive coordinator from 2000 to 2005.”

From there Nowell coached at Giles County and Battleground Academy before moving out of state to coach in Hattiesburg, Miss. for five years as the offensive coordinator.

Once again, Nowell took another coaching job out of state with East Brewster, Ala. where he spent three years on the sidelines.

“I was supposed to have a job in Mobile, Alabama but the superintendent restructured some positions within the school and I didn’t get the job,” Nowell said of his most recent coaching venture. “That’s when I got a call from here and was asked if I was interested in coming to Humboldt,” Nowell noted. “Mr. (James) Walker and Mr. (George) Yarbro offered me the job.” Walker is principal at HJSHS and Yarbro is athletic director.

Nowell said the three of them talked and they were very cooperative with the direction Nowell wanted to take to get the football program back on solid ground.

“It is always good to hire a Humboldt native to be a part of the  athletic program, especially a coach of this caliber,” Yarbro said.

“Coach Nowell provides a wealth of knowledge regarding football that can hopefully influence our team to work hard, be competitive, and win football games. I’m excited about the hire and looking forward to the spring workouts and upcoming football season.”

On day one of being hired, Nowell hit the ground running, working on getting a coaching staff together. He planned on talking with the current coaching staff as well as bringing in some new members.

As of now, Nowell does not know what subject he will be teaching next year at HJSHS but is ready to get started, meeting his players and coaching staff. With spring training around the corner, Nowell is ready for practice, weight-lifting and conditioning.

“I’m going to encourage them to play,” Nowell said of his future players. “My first goal is to be competitive and go from there.”

“We are very excited to have Coach Nowell leading the football program for Humboldt City Schools,” Dr. Hamlett said. “He has come full circle returning to Humboldt and is ready to build a premier program.”

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