Alan Overton can’t stop smiling when talking about the uphill battle ahead of him at Highland High School. It’s clear he’s excited.
On one hand, the dream of being a head football coach has finally come to fruition. On the other, he’s tasked with turning around a program that scored only 48 points in an 0-9 season last fall.
He knows it won’t be easy, but working hard and learning from area veterans since his days playing at Fort Morgan has Overton confident the Huskies can bring a winning reputation to the small town of Ault. And it all starts today as Highland begins its two-week summer football camp.
“There’s always a little bit of butterflies heading into the season, but we have quite a bit of talent coming back, especially at some of the skill positions, so hopefully we can put everything together on the same page,” Overton, 37, said. “Last year was tough. We lost our starting quarterback after the scrimmage and then in the first game our second-string quarterback got hurt.
“That whole transition was enough to have kids ask ‘what’s going to happen next?’ “
Overton has been coaching football since 1999, getting his start as an assistant under Bill Mondt at Eaton, working primarily with the freshmen until 2002, when he left to pursue other career opportunities. He returned to the Reds for one season in 2005 and last year became an assistant at Highland.
Despite the struggles Highland had last season, which included a midyear coaching change, district athletic director Jeremy Burmeister saw promise in the assistant. Not only did Burmeister feel Overton had a solid understanding of football, but he noticed an uncanny gravitation toward the young coach from players.
Since Overton isn’t a teacher at Highland, working primarily for the North Weld County Water District and the Highland Recreation Association, he’s unable to roam the halls on a daily basis to regularly interact with students. That made his magnetic personality vital to the hire.
“Alan did a great job alleviating some of the concerns that educators may have as far as having a coach who’s out of the building,” Burmeister said. “He was here on a regular basis working with kids in the weight room and checking in on kids and their grades.
“Him coming around here and being out in the community really helped lift any concerns I had.”
Overton’s commitment to kids must have substance, because Mondt cited almost identical reasons for hiring him back in ’99.
“That was a few years ago, but he’s just a bright, young guy. Alan is a good football coach, he knows a lot about the backs, both on offense and defense,” said Mondt, who’s been coaching at Eaton since the mid 1990s. “He’s a great coach. I suppose he’s not so young anymore, but he has an excellent personality and really gets along with the kids. He’s a good young man.”
Beyond putting his employer at ease, Overton is hoping he’ll be able to connect with students at Highland who aren’t playing football, wanting to recruiting from classrooms and, hopefully, the Huskies’ successful wrestling program. If he is able to land a few wrestlers, it could be a big boost to turning the team around because having bigger players with quick feet will help fill a void where Highland lacks experience.
“We’re going to be real young on the offensive and defensive lines, for the most part. We’ll have one senior who will probably play both ways on the line,” Overton said. “After that, it’s going to be sophomores and juniors who haven’t played as much. I’m really hoping to get out some students who have never played before. Our weakness this year is going to be on the line.”
The foot might already be in the door for adding a few linemen since one of the Huskies’ key returning players is also a wrestler, and a state-champion one at that. Senior James “Bubba” Price won state in the 155-pound division last year and is expected to lead Highland’s backfield, with a little help from fellow running back Chris Villalobos. Price led the team with 233 rushing yards in 2011.
Looking to be set at wide receiver and defensive back spots, Highland still needs to find a quarterback and Overton said he’s penciling in school baseball star Jared Larsen to be the man to beat heading into camp. The only problem is he hasn’t played football in four years.
Overton admitted having such unfamiliarity at arguably the most important position on the field is a little worrisome as a coach, but luckily for him practice starts today, hopefully relieving nerves and letting the building process finally begin.
“It has me worried a little, but hopefully that can help us take people by surprise this year,” he said. “But looking forward to camp, we really just need our guys to get down the terminology so players will know what we’re talking about before we hit the season, get some conditioning in to be prepped for the season is a big thing. Also, having our coaches familiar with what we have as far as talent goes is important.
“I’m really excited.”