By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
When South Laurel was looking for a football coach after Larry Welch retired, Hunter Jackson interviewed for the position which ultimately went to Matt Rhymer.
But he stayed in close contact with Rhymer, so when Rhymer left after one season to take over at the University of the Cumberlands he asked Jackson if he was still interested in the South Laurel job.
“When the job came open I jumped on it,” Jackson said. “I talked with Ryan (Nolan, South Laurel’s athletic director) and we hit it off. Everyone has been very welcoming and made me feel right at home. That relieved a lot of stress.”
Home had a lot to do with his decision to leave Hardaway High School in Columbus, Georgia, his hometown, and relocate to Kentucky. His wife is originally from Columbia, where her parents still reside.
“I met my wife while we were at Eastern Kentucky University and my in-laws are huge supporters of our family,” Jackson said. “I have a great relationship with them and that was the draw to come to Kentucky.”
Jackson spent eight years as defensive coordinator at Hardaway High School and this will be his first head coaching job. He is looking forward to taking the helm and guiding the Cardinals next season.
“I met with the team on Thursday and they seemed really excited,” Jackson said. “After my junior year in high school my coach, who I had a great relationship with, left to take another job. When he came and told us he was leaving I was heartbroken. I told the team to keep looking up to Rhymer. I didn’t give my new head coach a chance and it cost me some valuable time. I asked them just to give me a chance.”
Jackson said what kind of offense the Cardinals will run is still a work in progress.
“I’ve been around the Veer and the Spread Offense and one of my mentors ran the Wing T,” Jackson said. “Right now I am still exploring what type of offense to run. It’s still a process.”
Hardaway was a 5A school, just like South Laurel, and they had about the same number of students. Jackson said that also will make his transition easier.
“It’s very similar,” Jackson said.
He will take over the reigns full time come summer, but plans on being here as much as he can, especially for spring football. Until then he will rely on his assistants to make sure things are running smoothly, especially in the weight room.
“All the assistants who were here will remain on staff,” Jackson said.
Jackson noted that he encourages his players to participate in other sports, and he plans to be a supporter of all South Laurel athletics.
“I want to be a supporter of all other South Laurel sports,” Jackson said. “I want the kids to see me supporting other sports.”
Jackson said he wants to win, like all coaches do, but he also wants to build a relationship with his players.
“If I can reach them on one level then maybe they can reach other kids on their level,” Jackson said. “That’s my goal. My plan for this team is to stress discipline, character and accountability and to put a team on the field that plays from the opening kickoff to the final snap.”