From 2003 to 2006, Mark LeGree was a dominant defender for Pacelli High School. Today, he draws closer to his first season as the head coach of his alma mater. The time in between has the 28-year-old confident in leading the Vikings to relevance again.
LeGree, known as “Big Play Dre” during his high school days, used his play at Pacelli to propel him to Appalachian State and five seasons of professional football. During that time, he was in the NFL for three years and spent time with six different teams.
Now, LeGree is the Vikings’ third head coach in four years and is looking to bring some stability to the program.
“It means a lot because this is my home,” LeGree said. “I never thought I’d be back here, especially being the head coach. It’s a crazy moment, and I’m incredibly blessed. I’m happy they have the faith in me to try and lead this team. I’m trying to get us back to where we were when I actually played here.”
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LeGree’s transition to head coach was simplified by his stint as Pacelli defensive coordinator in 2016. During that time, he got to know the players well, while they got to understand the expectations LeGree has for the team.
Those expectations have resulted in stronger standards in the offseason, according to senior linebacker and center Justin Bates.
“It seems a lot more regimented and organized, from the workouts to out here on the field,” Bates said. “Everything has a set time or a set number. He just knows exactly what he’s talking about because he’s been around such a high-caliber type of football.”
The Vikings players are well aware of LeGree’s background, something that has also influenced his coaching style. LeGree said he models himself after Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, a pair of coaches whose achievements include three Super Bowl appearances.
“You hear the term ‘players’ coach,’ and they kept us engaged in their programs,” LeGree said. “I’m trying to build the camaraderie and brotherhood back here. It’s just doing things together as a team: Having overnight sleepovers, going to bowling alleys and having competitions. I’m looking forward to bring all of the team together.”
Bates said there is a different atmosphere surrounding Pacelli, something LeGree believes could be a step in the right direction. LeGree’s motto for his inaugural season as a head coach is “No shortcuts,” a mantra that applies in the weight room, on the field and in the classroom.
That attitude is something Bates said was present from his head coach throughout the summer practices.
“He’s fun, but he’s also strict,” Bates said. “He’ll joke around, but it’s to the point where you’ve got to do what you’re supposed to do. He’s not going to sacrifice that for fun.”
LeGree said he can tell his players believe in what he’s bringing to a team fresh off its worst season since 2011. While the one-win 2016 campaign was a disappointment to everyone involved, LeGree has declared it a thing of the past now that he’s in charge.
“We’re going to just be a hard-working, determined team,” LeGree said. “We’re going to compete this year. It’s not going to be like it was last year, I promise you that.
“We’re going to win a lot more games, and we’re looking forward to Brookstone this year.”
Aug. 18 - vs Mount de Sales
Aug. 25 - vs Crawford County
Sept. 1 - BYE WEEK
Sept. 8 - at Marion County
Sept. 15 - at Tattnall Square
Sept. 22 - at Central (Talbotton)
Sept. 29 - vs Brookstone
Oct. 6 - vs Manchester
Oct. 13 - vs Greenville
Oct. 20 - BYE WEEK
Oct. 27 - Region crossover game
Nov. 3 - Region 4-A play-in game
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports
Head Coach: Mark LeGree (1st year at Pacelli, 1st overall as a head coach)
2016 Overall Record (Region Record): 1-9 (1-4)
Returning Starters on Offense: 5
Returning Starters on Defense: 3