By David Knox and Chris Yow
CLAY — The Clay-Chalkville Cougars have their next head coach, and he’s a familiar face to the program.
Clay-Chalkville Principal Michael Lee announced last Wednesday that, pending Jefferson County Board of Education approval, Drew Gilmer will be the next head coach for the Cougars.
Gilmer has been part of the Clay-Chalkville program for the past seven seasons in a number of different roles. He coached cornerbacks his first year and moved to wide receivers in his second season. In his third season, he became the linebackers coach, where he has remained. Additionally, he is the strength and conditioning as well as the special teams coach.
He previously worked at Pinson Valley High School as the quarterbacks coach before moving to Clay-Chalkville. He is a graduate of Pinson Valley, and played college baseball at Central Alabama Community College before finishing his degree at the Univ. of Alabama.
“It’s an honor,” Gilmer said. “I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity, and I’m just looking forward to getting to work.”
He said that he sees his tenure as one that will continue and build on former coach Jerry Hood’s legacy — a 6A state championship in 2014 and a runner-up finish in 2015.
“Absolutely. To be honest with you, Coach Hood is basically my mentor. He’s taught me everything I know and I’ve grown up underneath him. Of course, I’m going to put my own spin on a few things, but if the wheel’s not broke, let’s don’t try to fix it.”
Gilmer has not been a head football coach before, but he said he feels he’s ready for the challenge of being the head man.
“Absolutely. I’ve felt this way for quite some time, but I’ve always told people I’m in such a great position here, it’s tough to leave. I’ve just been blessed with this opportunity and I’m excited about it.”
Lee said he had many applicants from all over for the position.
“Coach Hood made this a very attractive position,” the principal said.
“There are several candidates on our staff that were qualified, and a lot of good candidates out there, but for us and what we are trying to accomplish, Drew Gilmer is the best selection we could have made. He’s a great football coach, a man of character, and a great role model for a lot of our guys. I look forward to have him put his stamp on our program.”
Lee didn’t reveal who the other finalists were, but one of them was certainly offensive coordinator Stuart Floyd. Floyd, who quarterbacked the 1999 state championship team and had served as offensive coordinator for seven years, immediately indicated that he would be searching for a new coaching position.
Gilmer confirmed that Jon Clements, formerly the offensive coordinator at Pinson Valley, will be the new offensive coordinator. He joined the Clay staff this spring after Matt Glover was let go as Indians head coach.
It’s too soon to know exactly how the rest of Gilmer’s first staff will shape up, but the new coach did say he thought the offense would basically stay the same with some tweaks to accommodate personnel.
Clay-Chalkville has posted ads for football coaches on both sides of the ball on the AHSAA website.
“There’s going to be a lot of familiar faces on staff and then we’ll reach out wherever we need to fill holes,” Gilmer said.
Spring practice had been set for April 19, but will now slide to April 24. The spring game at Gadsden City is set for May 12, unless the coaching change at Gadsden affects that.