Prep Football: New Danville coach Clevenger hopes to build relationships, build on Admirals' tradition
Clay Clevenger smiles as he sits alongside wife Kate and son Rush at a press conference today where he was introduced as Danville's new football coach. Clevenger, a 1996 Danville graduate, spent the past six seasons as head coach at Henderson County. (Clay Jackson / February 12, 2013)
In other words, it is the ideal job for Clevenger, a 1996 Danville graduate who was introduced today as the new football coach at his alma mater.
“Not a lot of people have the opportunity to go home, but when home is a program that’s in the top five in all-time wins in the state, won 10 state championships, one of the top five programs in the state of Kentucky, that just adds icing to it,” Clevenger said.
Clevenger said he is excited about the chance to lead a program that has made a habit of competing for championships, including two that he helped Danville win.
“if you’re going to do it and you’re going to compete, you want try to compete at the highest level, and that’s something that’s going to be important to me,” he said. “I feel like Danville High School, if I wasn’t an alum, gives you that opportunity as a coach with its history, and the fact that I am an alum just makes it that makes sweeter and probably makes you that much more invested into it.”
Clevenger’s investment was evident today as he sat alongside wife Kate and their 19-month-old son Rush and addressed an audience that included his parents and in-laws, all of whom live in Danville, and a handful of other relatives and friends.
“That’s what coming home’s all about,” Clevenger said. “But there’s no magic potion. The only thing I can promise is that we’re going to come to work on a daily basis and we’re going to try to get better.”
The work begins Wednesday, when Clevenger holds his first workout with many of the players who were also among the crowd crammed into the school library.
“We’re going to have fun together, we’re going to work hard together, we’re going to enjoy a lot of things to come,” he said.
One of those players, tight end-linebacker Jacobie Harris, said he liked what he heard from his new coach and said he and his teammates are eager to get to work.
“We’re ready. We’ve been ready for a while,” said Harris, who will be a senior next season. “The best thing, I think, is that he looks like he has his game plan ready. There’s going to be some changes, and that’s what I like, because we have been running the same stuff for a while, so hopefully he comes up with some new plays.”
Clevenger was hired Sunday to replace Sam Harp, who resigned in December after 25 years at Danville. He was on two of Harp’s seven championship teams — 1992 and 1994 — and it was during those years that he realized he wanted to become a coach and that he would like to coach at Danville some day.
And when word got to him that Harp was leaving to take a job in Lebanon, Tenn., he knew the time was now.
“I used to come up and help him break down film when I was a player, so I’ve always known I wanted to be a coach,” Clevenger said. “Danville football has always been one of the premier programs in the state and still is, so those things just kind of go hand in hand. Eventually you think about, ‘Yeah, one day I want to come back and coach here.’ Whether or not that was now, obviously the last time they’ve had to have this press conference was 25 years ago, so you’d better not wait. Twenty-five years from now, I hope I’m retired, too.”
Clevenger went 45-27 in six seasons at Henderson County following stints as an assistant coach at Lincoln County and at the University of the Cumberlands.
He was chosen from what Danville principal Aaron Etherington called “a deep pool of applicants.” Clay Albright, a former Danville player who is president of the Champions Club booster organization, said he is a popular choice among Danville fans.
“I think everybody’s already getting excited,” Albright said.
Clevenger’s referred several times today to forging relationships and to guiding the growth of the person as well as the player.
“It’s about relationships and developing those with these young men, these players, and cultivating those for years to come, and setting an example and trying to live by it,” he said.