High School Sports

New head football coach for Russell County a familiar face in Columbus area

Spotted at the Russell County High School versus Lanier football game Friday September 9, 2016
Spotted at the Russell County High School versus Lanier football game Friday September 9, 2016 photo@ledger-enquirer.com

Russell County High School has a new head football coach — and he’s a familiar face in the Columbus area.

Mark Rose, former head coach at Smiths Station and most recently the head coach at North Jackson, was hired Tuesday night by a unanimous vote of the seven-member Russell County Board of Education.

“I recommended Coach Rose because he has a proven success record,” superintendent Brenda Coley told the Ledger-Enquirer. “He demonstrated the knowledge, leadership, passion, commitment and motivation to take Russell County’s football program to the next level.”

Coley called Rose “all about connecting with the community and building relationships. In addition, he has experience working with rural school districts similar to Russell County.

“Coach Rose has very high expectations for students as well as his coaching staff. I embraced the fact that his philosophy supports the vision and mission of the Russell County School District.”

Rose succeeds Dwight Jones, who went 6-24 in three seasons at Russell County before leaving in January to take the job at Pacelli, where Mark “Dre” LeGree resigned the head coaching position in November after going 4-16 in two seasons.

The only region championship in the Russell County football program’s 65-season history was 21 years ago. Only 17 of its seasons have ended with winning records and only four have included a state playoff appearance. The Warriors’ all-time playoff record is 2-4 record, with the second round being the farthest they have reached.

Rose, however, has a more successful history.

In 22 seasons at three schools, his teams have won 10 region titles and have gone 172-75, including 22-17 in the state playoffs.

Rose began his head football coaching career at Tallassee, where he went 20-6 in two seasons (1998-99) with two region titles, including an appearance in the 1999 Class 4A state semifinals.

In his first stint at North Jackson (2000-07), Rose compiled an 85-15 record in eight seasons, with seven region titles. The Chiefs advanced as far as the Class 4A state championship game in 2002.

Rose was the head coach at Smiths Station for six seasons (2008-13), leading the Panthers to a 34-31 record. They didn’t win a region title, but they made three appearances in the Class 6A state playoffs, going a combined 2-3 and advancing as far as the third round in 2013.

In his second stint at North Jackson (2014-18), Rose went 33-23 in six seasons, including one region title, and four state playoff appearances, going a combined 3-4 and advancing as far as the second round three times.

The Ledger-Enquirer didn’t reach Rose for comment before deadline Wednesday, but he told the Times Free Press why he was willing to leave North Jackson despite leading the Chiefs to an 11-1 record last season.

“It’s back in the area where my wife and I have family, so it’s a great area for us and, at the end of the day, our goal was to get back closer to the Auburn area, where we have kids and grandchildren,” Rose told the Times Free Press. “North Jackson has been the best thing to happen to me two times, and we’ll always have great memories from the relationships we’ve built there.”

According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society, Rose grew up in Venice, Fla., then was a four-year letterman (1986-89) under coach Pat Dye at Auburn University, winning three SEC championships and starting at offensive guard in 1989.

Rose was an assistant coach at Smiths Station from 1994-98.

As for taking over the Russell County program, which hasn’t finished a season with a winning record since 1998, Rose told the Times Free Press, “I’ve never been afraid of a challenge. I feel like my calling is to help kids better their situation, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can get done there.”

In addition to his football duties, Rose will be the high school’s athletics director and teach physical education, Coley said.

Rose was hired out of more than 40 applicants and nine interviewed candidates, Coley said. On the selection committee with her were the principal, the interim athletics director and a community member, she said.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.