He was an all-state lineman on state championship teams at Danville, an all-American offensive lineman at Carson-Newman and has been a successful high school head coach at Henderson County.
Yet there was more than that about Clay Clevenger that convinced Danville school Superintendent Carmen Coleman he was the right person to be the new Danville High School football coach.
“I didn’t actually get to meet and talk with him until Saturday, but I was very impressed immediately with the things he said about the work ethic he expects from his players,” Coleman said this morning when confirming Clevenger had been hired after giving him a chance to break the news to his players at Henderson.
“I think he went into a difficult situation at Henderson (in 2007) and showed great perseverance as a coach and worked hard to bring that program back.
“When somebody is able to show that kind of dedication, it says a lot about his character. I was also very impressed that he talked about the kids he was working with to help get college scholarships and he wanted to make sure we would allow him to finish that process.”
Clevenger, 35, takes over from Sam Harp, who resigned in December after leading Danville to seven state titles and 10 overall state championship appearances in 25 years as head coach.
Harp left to take a job in Lebanon, Tenn., after compiling a 276-72 mark at Danville and 326-106 record in 32 years, including stints at Anderson County and Calloway County. He is one of only seven coaches to have won 300 games in Kentucky.
Clevenger played for Harp at Danville and graduated in 1996. He graduated from Carson-Newman in 2000 and spent the next five seasons as an assistant coach at the University of the Cumberlands. He spent 2006 as offensive coordinator at Lincoln County under coach Larry French before getting the head job at Henderson in 2007.
His first team went 2-9 and second team finished 7-4-1. Since then, he’s won nine games four straight years while playing a Class 5-A schedule. His overall record at Henderson was 45-27-1.
“I think Clay has a very specific plan for the football program,” Danville Principal Aaron Etherington said. “He has a very strong appreciation for Admiral football and the Admiral community, but at the same time, he has experienced adversity and challenges at other places and other levels. I was very impressed with his work ethic. He is detail-oriented and has very high expectations for his student-athletes, and he makes it clear that the student comes first for a reason.
“I think Clay brings a high level of energy and enthusiasm to our school as well as the football program. I thought it was very important that we hire someone to be a presence in our school. He is up to that challenge. I am really excited for him to get here and start having an impact in our hallways and on the playing field.”
Clevenger was one of 17 applicants for the job. The search committee interviewed seven applicants and recommended three to the administration.
Coleman said Clevenger’s specific job in the school system is yet to be determined.
“We have several options and are still working on those things,” Coleman said. “We will figure that out this week. It could be one thing to finish the year because we have a couple of vacancies. We have some options, and next year it could change. But he definitely will be teaching at the high school.
“We wanted this done quickly because we wanted things to continue to move forward. Our assistant coaches have been great with the kids, but there was that unanswered question about who the next coach would be.”
Etherington says it is too early to know how much flexibility Clevenger might have adding staff members.
“Clay has been a high school coach and understands that sometimes there are some restrictions that he nor we can control,” the Danville principal said. “As much as possible, we want Clay to have the independence to form his own staff. We have hired Clay to be our head coach, and we trust his vision and trust him to make decisions to lead the program forward. I have communicated that to Clay, and he understands. But he is fully aware I want him to be successful.”
Coleman says Clevenger’s ties to the school and community — his wife, Kate, is also from here — were a bonus for the school system.
“The fact that he is a great coach stands alone, and his success in the coaching world speaks for itself,” Coleman said. “He is not just passionate about football and kids, but he is passionate about Danville football and Danville kids. That makes him special.
“He has very high standards for his players academically and a real structured program. If they are not where they need to be grade-wise, they go to a tutoring program. He is also very personable. He is just really easy to like and talk to. I think kids will really relate well to him. He is going to expect a lot from them not just on the field, but also in the classroom. He’s going to be a great coach and great partner for teachers in holding kids accountable.”
SO YOU KNOW
Clay Clevenger will be formally introduced as Danville High School’s new football coach at 2 p.m. Tuesday during a press conference in the school library. The event will be open to the public.
“He hopes to be here later today and could possibly meet with players and others then, too,” Danville Superintendent Carmen Coleman said. “But he definitely will be available Tuesday, and I think he’s going to get a very warm reception from everyone.”