Health and PE teacher takes over for Bob Knox, who retired in December
(Feb. 7, 2020) Jake Coleman joined the Stephen Decatur football program this past fall as an assist coach and the offensive coordinator, but next season he will have a new role – head coach.
During a small gathering for the media on Monday at the Berlin high school, it was officially announced that Coleman will be taking over for Bob Knox, who has been at the helm of the Decatur football program since 1983.
Knox announced his retirement from coaching on Dec. 10, in the same small room that Coleman’s promotion was made public.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity and this transition … we’ve had very few head coaches in our program … We feel so blessed and fortunate that we brought Jake down from Cambridge,” said Decatur Principal Tom Sites. “Jake’s got a lot of great experience as a player and as a coach.”
“The one thing that really stands out is that he has a passion of molding young men and I think that’s very important for today’s kids,” added Assistant Principal Dr. Curtis Bunting. “Jake has a passion and he cares for kids and we’ve seen that already. Just talking to kids and players they speak highly of Coach Coleman. When we have great relationships with athletes, anything can happen and we witnessed that already this past season.”
Coleman, 38, said being part of the Decatur football program this past season will help ease the transition from assist to head coach, since he is already familiar with the players and has built relationships with them.
“They saw who I was and saw the type of coach that I was,” he said. “I was able to come in and start coaching the kids and start installing the type of systems that I utilize.”
Having the opportunity to coach under Knox for the season was a tremendous learning experience, Coleman said.
“Getting to see behind the scenes what is Decatur football and it starts first and foremost with Coach Knox,” Coleman said. “He is Decatur football and seeing the way he goes about things, the type of relationships he builds with players and the community was something that I’m glad that I got to experience.”
Not only does Coleman want to have a relationship with his players, but with the community as well.
“I’m going to get out there and try to get to know the community as well as I can and really become a fixture in it,” he said.
Coleman attended Cambridge-South Dorchester High School from 1995-1998, where he played football and baseball. He was an all-state player in both sports and won a few state championships. He was recently inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Coleman also played baseball and football at Salisbury University. He then had the opportunity to coach there for two years.
Following his stint at Salisbury, Coleman became the youngest head football coach in Maryland history, taking over the program at Cambridge in 2004 at just 23 years old. During his tenure, he went 92-51, capturing 11 straight 1A Bayside Conference titles and two east regional championships. His team made the playoffs 11 of the 13 years he was with the program.
In 2018, he took a season off from high school ball to coach his son in youth football. He also spent that time to focus on his health – he lost 120 pounds – and get himself “revamped.”
He joined the Decatur coaching staff for the 2019 season.
Also brought in was Frank Whirley and Dan Dobronz, from Cambridge-South Dorchester High School – who Coleman coached with for a number of years – in addition to Brad Dalton from Sussex Central in Delaware.
Coleman said he is building his staff for next season, which will include some of those already involved with the program as well as others from across the state, he said.
“I feel like the staff we’re putting together is going to be really formidable,” he said. “I’m going to try to surround myself with the very best coaching staff I can and try to recruit out as many kids in the building as we can.
“One goal right off the ball, I want to get about 33 percent more student-athletes playing than we had last year,” he continued. “In three years’ time, I want to double that. It’s kind of a lofty goal that I’m setting for the program.”
Not only is Coleman a new head coach, but this is his first year as a health and physical education teacher at Decatur. This is his 16th year as an educator. He taught for 15 years in Dorchester County.
“I think being a great coach starts with being a great teacher,” Coleman said.
“I’ve been so impressed with his classroom management and content and the job he’s doing in the classroom each and every day,” Sites said. “We’re appreciative of everything he’s bringing to the table as a teacher and as a coach.”
Coleman is looking forward to the 2020 season. He will be playing on the field named after his predecessor and the Worcester County Public Schools superintendent – the “Robert G. Knox Field and Louis H. Taylor Stadium.”
Under the direction of Knox, Decatur won nine conference championships, made 10 state playoff appearances, competed in four regional championship games and in two semifinal matches. In April 2018, Knox was inducted into the Maryland Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
With an overall record of 232-141 at the time of the induction ceremony, Knox was ranked 13th on the All-Time Winningest Coaches in Maryland list, and No. 2 behind Chuck Markiewicz of Arundel (243-96) for Active Winningest Maryland Coaches. He finished his career with 238 wins and 154 losses.
“Coach Knox is really the one responsible for this. Two years ago he came to Cambridge and he and his wife started talking to my wife about this possibility,” Coleman said. It’s just been a great opportunity to come down here and coach with him, learn from him.
“Coach Knox, his teams were built on disciple, being real physical and being great teams tackling and blocking, and we’re going to do that too,” he continued. “We’re going to stick right there with the tradition he’s laid and just try to build upon it. I like to mold my schemes to the players’ talent – change and adapt to players’ talents – and don’t get stuck in one offense or defense permanently.”
He also wants to focus on developing a year-round football mindset and building discipline.
“You can’t be a state championship team without being disciplined,” he said. “We were right there some games last year, we’ve just got to take that next step. It starts in the weight room, and having a year-round approach.”
Hard work will also be key to success, he said.
“If you focus on outworking people, doing what they’re not willing to, then a lot of times success will come after that,” Coleman added. “I’m about the grind. It’s the underdog mentality and I’d like to bring that here.”
But it’s not all about football. Academics is also important.
“The academic standard is huge for me,” he said. “I want to focus on building relationships with those kids and being very academically focused. We’re going to have a team GPA standard and a goal every single year and we plan on meeting it.”