When a high school has seven different head football coaches in an eight year span, it is understandable why the school came to be known as the "revolving door of coaches." It is also understandable why the school struggled to win football games with frequently changing philosophies. Before the arrival of Gordon Walters in 2005, the South Brunswick Cougars won no more than three games in each of the previous seven seasons.
Coach Walters brought much needed stability to South Brunswick. In just his second year in 2006, he led his team to a 6-6 record and took the Cougars to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. In 2007, Walters got his team off to a 6-0 start and again qualified for the state playoffs.
Besides the improvement on the field, Coach Walters has revived the spirit of the Southport community. Excitement has returned to the school, with attendance increasing 50-75% at all athletic events. More importantly, however, Walters has instilled a new sense of confidence in his student-athletes.
"When you have coaches come and go as often as we have had, the kids start wondering whether or not it is their fault, if they are failing the coaches," says athletic director Chris Roehner. "Gordon has assured them that they are not to blame, and these kids believe in themselves again."
This point was shown on the field earlier this season against rival North Brunswick. Down seven points with less than a minute left, the Cougars scored to bring the score within one. Instead of playing for the tie, however, Walters went for the win with a two-point conversion. Though the Cougars were unable to convert, the decision by Walters showed his players he trusted them.
"It was heart-breaking, but those kids have so much respect for him," states Roehner. "They know he believes in them."
It should be no surprise that Walters has had such a positive influence on South Brunswick, as he has a history of success. At Laney High School (Wilmington, NC), he ended the school's 22-game losing streak and led them to their first AP State ranking. At Southern Durham High, he took the team to the Eastern State Finals in consecutive years and holds the school's highest winning percentage as a coach. Walters has also helped more than seventy student-athletes earn football scholarships during his 13-year head coaching career.
Keith Barber of the Lumina News (Wrightsville, NC), who is currently filming a documentary on the career of Coach Walters, stresses how much Walters cares for his players. "When new players first arrive on his team, the first question he asks them is, ‘Where will you be in five years?'" says Barber. "He checks up on their grades, and it's not just to keep them eligible to play. He really wants to help these kids make it to a four-year college and have a bright future.
"[Coach Walters'] former players have so much respect for him," states Barber. "Oftentimes, former players from Laney or Southern Durham come to watch games at South Brunswick. They have absolutely no connections to the team or school at all except for Coach Walters. That's the kind of influence he has had on their lives."
The Carolina Panthers wish Coach Walters and the South Brunswick Cougars continued success.