By Gabriel Stovall
FOREST PARK, Ga. — For the 10th time in the last 13 seasons, Forest Park High School will welcome a new head football coach.
After former coach Reginald Austin abruptly resigned Thursday, citing family reasons, Forest Park principal Derrick Manning called up an old assistant in Dale Myers to lead become the school’s new football coach.
Myers spent time as offensive coordinator during coach Don Williams’ one-year tenure in 2012, and has had other assistant coaching stops at Southern Crescent schools such as Jonesboro, McIntosh and Community Christian in Stockbridge.
Manning said Monday that he was excited to welcome Myers aboard once again after nearly appointing him as the program’s top man in 2013.
“Coach Myers was actually the top finalist when we hired Coach John Diehl,” Manning said. “In fact, he made the decision very tough. He is an educator first, and a man of conviction and impeccable character. Plus, his knowledge and experiences, both playing and coaching, make him a great match for Forest Park.”
Myers played his high school ball at south Georgia power Camden County, starring as a wide receiver and running back under coach Bill Thombs from 1985 through 1987. Those Thombs-coached squads amassed a 34-7 record during those three years. Myers then went on to play for Georgia Tech for one season before a neck injury ended his playing career.
He said he wants to release some of that winning tradition he absorbed in Camden and on The Flats onto a once proud Forest Park program that produced talent the likes of former Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward, but hasn’t seen a winning season since 2000.
More than that, in 25 years, the Panthers have only had two coaches to stay at the helm of the program for more than two consecutive season. That’s a trend Myers said he’s ready to break.
“The first thing that came out of (Manning’s) bout was that he’s not concerned about wins and losses right now, but that I need you to build my program, change the culture and teach kids how to compete,” Myers said. “We both understand that that’s going to take some time. Make no mistake about it, I’m not coming here to get my face wiped up by the competition, but we’re coming here to take the time to build a culture, and a foundation, and the wins will follow.”
Manning said he was notified of Austin’s desire to leave the program last Thursday. He quickly made connection with Myers — who said he was looking to come back to the school to teach science anyway — and by Saturday, the Panthers had a new coach.
“Coach Austin reluctantly shared with me a decision he was pondering which basically came down to unfairly having to split his time between family and his love for the game of football,” Manning said. “And obviously, family wins every time. I respect his decision and wish him the best.”
Manning also confirmed his desire to give Myers plenty of time to build a winner at Forest Park once again.
“We would certainly like to see Coach Myers become established, and naturally, this takes time,” he said. “He’s got a systematic plan, a vision, passion and exceptional rapport with our young men. He is in charge now.”