Herring named Coach of the Year

Three years ago, Ryan Herring took over the Shelby County football program and began bulking up a group of players. Today he is 25-9 as a head coach.

“When I first got here we had kids dropping out daily, and we hadn’t even started practiced yet,” Herring said. “I was worried to death. I said, ‘Oh, Lord, this is going to be tough. But we’re going to do it hard. We’re not going to let anybody out work us.’ I thank the Lord it paid off.”

That payoff came in 2008, as Herring’s six day-a-week weight program helped produce the first undefeated regular season for the Shelby County Wildcats since 1984. a task that helped earn him the title of Shelby County Reporter Coach of the Year.

“When you get an honor like Coach of the Year, it’s 100 percent because of your assistants and because of your players.” Herring said. “Our coaches have worked tirelessly all year without complete, and they’ve had to deal with me all weekend for 12 weeks in a row. I have a lot of respect for them putting up with me and a lot of respect for the kids putting up with me.”

Most of the players consider him a father figure, according to senior fullback Darion Sutton.

But that fatherly instinct is a new twist to the Herring coaching style.

“When I first got into coaching, I had the mindset that I wanted to coach a state championship team or that I wanted to coach in a championship game,” he said.

“This team right here changed my whole mindset. I wanted them to play in a championship game. I wanted them to play in Birmingham. Being around these kids, it’s helped me become a better person and a better coach.”

Other than the workout program, what got Herring and his team to where it is today is playing simple and smart.

“I don’t plan on coming here and outsmarting anyone,” Herring told the Reporter when hired in 2006. “We’re going to outwork people.”

That part of the Herring philosophy never changed. It grew.

After a mediocre late summer workout, Herring challenged his players and coaches to play how they want to play.

“From that day on, things picked up,” Herring said.

The ’Cats opened the season with a 29-20 upset of Class 6A opponent Pell City and then posted one of the program’s biggest wins in history the next week, shocking No. 2 Briarwood, 23-6.

The 45-man roster, playing up to nine players on both sides of the ball most Friday nights, set out to prove something the rest of the year, setting numerous school records including most wins since moving to Class 5A.

The Wildcats’ offense totaled 4,327 yards for a record year, including a record 3,150 yards on the ground.

But it wasn’t just offense. The secondary was the best in the county, collecting 21 interceptions, a school record, and the defensive front set a record with 29 sacks.

“It was an unbelievable year,” Herring said.