Jemison tabs Davis as next head football coach

Published 12:47 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

Jemison High School found its next head football coach in Chilton County native Rishard Davis after the announcement was made on Jan. 22. Davis brings eight years of head coaching experience in Arizona with him to the Panthers program, winning a state and three region championships in his eight years.

Davis, who grew up in Chilton County and graduated from Maplesville High School, will teach math at Jemison.

“I think I would have still come (to Jemison) even if I did not find anything because it is somewhere close,” Davis said. “To have both of those spots being a math teacher and a football coach open, it just worked out for me. I am no stranger to Chilton County or Jemison, and when I was growing up Jemison had some stout teams year in and year out. The spirit stays around, you just have to rekindle that, and hopefully I am the guy to do that.”

Davis attended the University of Arizona and was a walk-on to the Wildcats program after graduating from Maplesville, but he was let go in the spring of 2004. With no transfer portal available to him like student athletes of today, Davis took the route many other transfers took back then by stepping down a division, and returned to Alabama. He took his talents to Huntingdon College in Montgomery where he excelled and had a fantastic career before graduating in 2009. He was later inducted into the Huntingdon College Hall of Fame in 2015 for his stellar football career at the school.

Following Huntingdon, it was time for Davis to begin his journey to achieve his dreams of becoming a head coach, and he still loved Arizona from his time out there before.

“I had friends out there still, so I kind of took a blind shot in the dark,” Davis said.

He traveled back to Arizona and began coaching before capturing his first head coaching job in 2014, but in a unique way. While working towards his Master’s Degree, Davis was working at a high school as well when the head football coach there resigned two weeks into June, less than two months before the next season. Davis was chosen as the next head coach, and was board approved just a few weeks before the team’s first scrimmage game.

“To be honest, that was my worst year as a head coach, but that was their best year in over a decade,” Davis said.

For the next seven years, Davis built the program there, and it culminated with a state championship in 2020. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States, Davis returned to Maplesville after his title winning season to be closer with his parents. His father passed away shortly after he returned, and he decided to stick around in Chilton County afterwards to be closer to family. In 2021, Davis was an assistant at Chilton County High School, and then an assistant at Maplesville in 2022.

“The two years I was here I could not find a head coaching job, and in Arizona I still had schools reaching out to me,” Davis said.

Davis got another head coaching opportunity in Arizona at a school he played during his previous stint there, and he won a region title with the team in his first season, and the school’s first season after moving up a classification. He made the trip out to Arizona by himself while his family remained in Chilton County, and he was trying to make it an easier transition for getting them out west. However, it did not work out, and Davis returned home in late 2023.

“I am not upset (about it at all), but I am the type of person that wants to commit to something and be at a school as long as I can, and as long as they want me to be there,” Davis said. “I go see my mom in Maplesville, and it gives me peace of mind just being closer.”

Davis began looking for jobs in Chilton when he knew he was returning home, and he reached out to his alma mater first. There were no openings at Maplesville, but Davis learned about the head coaching position at Jemison and reached out to the administration first. From there, the two sides came to an agreement to make Davis the next head coach at Jemison. Jemison Principal Kendall Jackson was very excited with the hire prior to Davis being approved by the Chilton County School Board on Jan. 22, and believes he will move the program in a positive direction.

When it comes to his coaching style and philosophies, the first thing Davis mentioned was toughness. He said he is in head coaching to win football games, and “if I am not in it to win games, then I am not going to coach anymore. It is not fair to the kids, especially to the seniors.”

Davis added that while most coaches want to take their time building a program, he wants to see what Jemison can do in 2024 right away and then build on that. He is known in Arizona as a run-first type of coach who runs it a lot and plays stout defense. He believes that those are the two main things that contribute to winning football teams, and the two things he hangs his hat on.

“Run to win, throw to score,” Davis said. “I truly believe you have to have an identity, and you have to stick with it. For me, there is no plan B, and we are going to stick with it. It has been great for me so far.”

Building relationships with the school, community and players to gain their trust will be another cornerstone of building the Panthers program back into a winner, a task Davis said he will put a lot of effort into.

“I am here to try to win every single game,” Davis said. “I am going to coach every game like I want to win. A quote from Bill Walsh I like is ‘Champions behave like champions before they are champions.’ That is half of it to me — believing, trusting and building those relationships, and the other stuff will fall into place.”