After an outstanding playing career at quarterback, Eddie Eviston has been able to translate those skills to the coaching level, leading productive offenses and tutoring a variety of talented signal-callers.
Eviston will return to Northern Kentucky to take over a Covington Catholic football program that traditionally has one of the area’s most prolific offenses. He was named as the new Colonels head coach Tuesday, replacing David Wirth, who was at CCH the previous six seasons.
“I’ve always known how special this place is and I look forward to being a part of that,” he said. “We’re going to tackle this thing and take Covington Catholic football to the next level. This opportunity presented itself. It made sense for my family. I’m excited to be a head coach again.”
Associated with Newport Central Catholic High School all his life, Eviston took a bold step when he moved one county to the west to resume his head coaching career.
Eviston was at Georgetown College the previous two seasons as offensive coordinator for a national contender in the NAIA. Georgetown averaged 506 all-purpose yards per game for the last two seasons and finished the 2014 season ranked ninth nationally in scoring offense.
Before that, he was at NewCath for three seasons, compiling a record of 35-8 and leading NCC to the Class 2A state championship in 2010 and 2012. He won those titles with two different QBs, a versatile athlete in Brady Hightchew who was more of a running threat; and a tall, strong-armed Josh Cain who was also a standout baseball pitcher.
“He really brings a lot to the table. What he says, I take in,” Hightchew told the Enquirer in 2010. “He helps me even when he’s not around.”
Eviston was a standout student-athlete at NCC, earning second team all-state honors in 1996 and winning the prestigious “That’s My Boy” award from the National Football Foundation in 1997.
As a player at Georgetown, he was a two year team captain, three-time NAIA national player of the year, a three-time All-American, and a member of the 2000 and 2001 national championship teams. He compiled a 41-1 record as a starting quarterback at Georgetown, and was also a National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete Award finalist.
As the offensive coordinator in 2013-14, he mentored senior Neal Pawsat, who threw for 2,704 yards and 20 touchdowns last season while completing 57 percent of his passes. The Mason County graduate enjoyed learning under one of the program’s all-time greats.
“He’s probably the best player to play here and that translates into his coaching,” Pawsat said. “He’s seeing what I’m seeing even though I’m on the field and he’s on the sidelines. It was nice to have a coach on the same page with seeing the same things the players were seeing. To have that connection is special and will serve him well.”
Pawsat said Eviston was excellent in game-planning and was always well-prepared.
“Coach Eviston is a real players’ coach,” he said. “Even on field, he is able to crack jokes and talk about other things than football. He’s good at building relationships with all his players. He also knows on field is work time. He does a good job with balance, which allows for a better connection. … I know it was tough decision (for him), but a good one, though. He’s going to do a great job and I really think he will bring a couple of state titles to CovCath in the next few years.”
Eviston is excited about tutoring QBs at CovCath.
“No matter what level, the quarterback is a very important position,” he said. “You need that quality guy, a guy you can trust. He’s basically your coach on the field. He touches the ball every play. The more he can do, the more we keep the defense guessing. We have to take our quarterbacks and pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses, make sure they’re successful.”
Winning state titles is the “next level” that CovCath is striving for. Eviston knows that taking things there at CCH involves getting past rival Highlands in the playoffs. Since winning its last state championship in 2006, the Colonels have lost 13 straight games to the Bluebirds, including five postseason contests.
“It’s awesome,” he said of the challenge. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for what they do. There’s a reason they win. They have a formula, there’s no doubt about it. Our goal is to match that and then surpass that. That should be everybody’s goal. All we can do is pull up our bootstraps and get after it.”
CCH principal Bob Rowe said the school approached Eviston about potentially moving back up to Northern Kentucky.
“We reached out to Coach Eviston to see what his interest was and as the process went about, we knew he was the right guy for this school,” Rowe said. “He’s the perfect fit in all aspects. His spiritual background, his Catholic identity is very strong. His academic status, straight A’s in his career, and his social and athletic background speaks for itself. We want coaches who are hungry and driven, and he’s all about the kids. He’s firm but he’s fair.”
Longtime Georgetown head coach Bill Cronin, who also coached Eviston, said CovCath is getting a winner.
“Eddie has been and always will be a Tiger,” Cronin said. “He was an easy hire back in 2013, and I can’t blame any school trying to entice him away from us. This was an opportunity to return closer to home and back to head coaching ranks. We wish him good luck and look forward to recruiting a number of his players in the future.”
Eviston met with his new players earlier Tuesday and was planning on being introduced at CovCath’s home basketball game that night. He is ready to get started but he’ll always have a soft spot for his alma maters.
“There are great people there,” he said. “It has a special place in my heart, but I’m excited about this chapter, meeting these families and these kids.”