Just two days after landing his "dream job" as head coach of the Owen Warhorse football team, Nathan Padgett stopped by the office of The Black Mountain News. A Swannanoa Valley native who grew up in Black Mountain where he currently resides, Padgett had just introduced himself to his new players prior to his visit.
He'll be finishing out this school year at T.C. Roberson, where he is currently employed. But Padgett is already looking forward to his first varsity head coaching job at Owen, where he went to high school. Padgett found time in his busy schedule to answer some questions about how it feels to get a job that he has always wanted and how much pressure he feels following the long career of his predecessor and former coach, Kenny Ford.
Black Mountain News: How does it feel to be chosen as the head coach of your former high school football team in your home town?
Nathan Padgett: I am excited about the opportunity to come back home to Owen. This is a dream come true for me and my family. This is a dream for any Warhorse player that has ever worn that Horseshoe on their helmet on a Friday night in the Valley. I am truly blessed to be chosen to lead these young men here at Owen.
BMN: What makes Warhorse football special to you?
Padgett: There is a strong bond between Warhorse football players, both past and present. The support of this community makes that bond even stronger. I remember Coach Ford coming and speaking to us when I was in the eighth grade. He made a statement that I will never forget. He said, "When you get a scrape or a cut, you bleed maroon... because you're a Warhorse. It's in your blood. Once a Warhorse, always a Warhorse."
BMN: As a former player under Ford, how has he impacted your approach to the game?
Padgett: Coach Ford taught us physical and mental toughness. There have been some great athletes that have played at Owen over the years. I believe I represent the majority of the players that have played at Owen. We were blue collar, hardworking players that played with a lot of heart, passion, and desire. I hope to continue that same approach.
BMN: How much pressure comes with being the coach that takes over the Warhorse program after Ford's 29 years with the team?
Padgett: There will never be another Coach Ford. If people are looking for the next Coach Ford in me, they are looking in the wrong place. We will work hard to continue and carry on the pride and tradition that Coach Ford, his staff, and the players over the years have worked so hard to build.
BMN: Who are your biggest influences in the game of football?
Padgett: My parents and my family were my biggest influences growing up. My wife is very supportive of my profession. It's important to me for our players and staff to become a football family. As I reflect back over the years, there were many great men that affected my life at Owen. Coach Ford, Steve McCurry, Charles Elvington, Tim Raines, Mark Ferguson, Bill Mott, Porky Spencer, and Anthony Lee have all had a major impact on who I am today. I am sure I left some out but there have been so many people that have influenced me through the game of football. That is what makes the game so special.
BMN: How has your previous coaching experience helped prepare you for the position at Owen?
Padgett: I have previously coached at Cane Creek Middle School, A.C. Reynolds, and T.C. Roberson. During those times, I have been involved with some great teams over the years at those schools. Several of those teams had undefeated seasons and won many conference championships. Being a part of those successful programs has helped me along the way.
BMN: What are you looking forward to the most as the head coach of the Warhorses?
Padgett: Building champions on and off the filed. But, building those relationships with players, staff, and the community is very important to me. I am also looking forward to being a part of this school that game me so much as a student-athlete.
BMN: What will be the thing that you emphasize the most to your players going forward?
Padgett: Last year's team had many great players and will go in the history books as one of the best teams to ever come through Owen, but we are not last year's team. I have been in their shoes. My junior year we went 12-1 and lost in the third round of the state playoffs. We graduated many seniors off of that team that were very talented. We only had a few starters coming back for my senior year. Many people in the area counted us out and said that we would not be very successful. We ended up beating some talented teams that year and finished the season with a winning record. My emphasis to them is: "What will your legacy be?"
BMN: Last year's Warhorses won the conference championship for the first time since 2006. With the departure of some key seniors, what are your expectations going into next season?
Padgett: That team was a very special and talented team. My expectation is that we have the type of program that our school and community can be proud of, both on and off the field. We expect to build our program with young men who have character, pride, self-discipline, courage, and commitment. We have to love each other unconditionally. We will make mistakes throughout the season but great teams stay together through the good and the bad. We will be a family and we will encourage and support each other along the way.
BMN: Would you consider yourself to be more of an offensive of defensive coach?
Padgett: I have coached both over the course of my career. I believe that in order to become a good offensive coach, you have to know and study the defense. The same applies to being a good defensive coach. You have to know how the offense will attack you. The past five years at Roberson I have primarily coached on the defensive side.
BMN: What are some of the challenges that you anticipate facing as you settle into this position?
Padgett: I think the biggest challenge for me is getting to know the players and build those relationships with them. I had the opportunity to meet with them today for the first time. That was very exciting. My goal is to bridge the gap between our youth leagues and middle school so we can begin building our future Warhorses at an early age. Building a staff of good men to lead and be role models for our Warhorses will be a top priority of mine as well.