As a new year approaches, we all enjoy thinking of a fresh new attitude or approach to life. Warren County High School took on a fresh new approach when they hired Lee Hutto as their head football coach. I enjoyed a nice chat with Lee a couple of weeks ago, and his attitude toward the challenge that faces him is a refreshing one.
I first laid eyes on Lee in the old dusty, dreary weight room of The Brickyard, circa July 1991. It was - as always - a stifling day in that weight room, and Lee was there to get in one of the mandatory workouts required to be a Thomson Bulldog. He was preparing for his senior season as a starting defensive end.
It was evident from that day that Lee accepted hard work as a requirement to meet his goal, success on the football field. Lee is clearly carrying that same determination, and perhaps more importantly, understanding, in his role as a head football coach.
Lee was fortunate to play in the Thomson program and later coach under some of Georgia's finest coaches. He coached for two years at Washington-Wilkes under Butch Brooks and Frank Vohun before joining Coach Luther Welsh's staff at his alma mater. He followed Coach Rob Ridings to Glynn Academy where he served as defensive coordinator for two seasons. Lee also quickly adds that he is linked by marriage to one of Georgia's most successful coaches, the now retired Mike Hodges. Coach Hodges is Lee's wife Hollie's uncle.
As I talked with Lee, I easily picked up that Lee is one more discerning thirty-three year old. He realizes that Warren County is a small school system that will never be able to afford many luxuries that larger places can finance. He readily accepts that fact.
"We're a small, poor, rural area that's doing the best we can for our kids, and I can live with that," said Coach Hutto. "I'm not about to demand the world because I'm not foolish enough to believe that we can have everything."
Coach Hutto acknowledged that he thinks he can win at Warren County for two basic reasons that really have nothing to do with him.
"We've got good athletes with speed, and they have not caused any discipline problems since I started," he said. "I can't ask for more than that."
The school has provided space and equipment and class time for a weight-training program that was the foundation of Coach Hutto's playing career. He also recognizes how important community support for the program is.
"There were 12 people at our first booster club meeting, and now we have 105 members," he said. "If we can keep that support up as well as let it grow we'll be in good shape."
When asked what was the biggest difference in being an assistant coach and a head coach, Hutto was quick to answer.
"Decisions, decisions, decisions," he said with a grin. "I never realized how many things you had to decide that had nothing to do with the plays you run on the field."
Knowing that the buck stops with him does not seem to overwhelm Hutto.
"I've been around some good coaches that would ask your opinion, so that really helped me," he offered. "It gave me a chance to think about things without the pressure of having the final word."
Coach Hutto's short-range goal is to get more kids in the program and make them physically stronger. He hopes to have enough next season to play at least an abbreviated junior varsity schedule.
"We have a tough schedule, but I think we can keep doing well," Coach Hutto predicted.
Doing well is what the Screaming Devils did this past season, going 8-5 and making it to the state quarterfinals where they lost to eventual state runner-up Clinch County.
Coach Hutto is extremely positive. He seems content with his spot in the coaching profession, and that is a great sign for Warren County. To continue to build that football program they need things that money can't buy. Things like a positive leader that is determined, energetic and willing to stand up for his principles.
That is Lee Hutto.
He seems patient enough to work to build a consistent winner. If Warren County is patient, and supportive, they will make a great team for years to come.