Calera’s Zow talks past, future

Published 3:49 pm Thursday, January 28, 2016

Andrew Zow, the new head football coach of the Calera Eagles, took some time to talk about his thoughts on leaving Montevallo and taking the job at Calera. (File)

Andrew Zow, the new head football coach of the Calera Eagles, took some time to talk about his thoughts on leaving Montevallo and taking the job at Calera. (File)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

CALERA – Andrew Zow looks out over the lunchroom at Calera with a smile on his face. The new head football coach of the Eagles is usually smiling, but this is a personal smile, a contented smile. The one-time quarterback of the Alabama Crimson Tide is still taking in his new surroundings, and he likes what he sees.

Between lunch blocks, a teacher walks up to Zow and says she has a free period later in the day, and if Zow should need anything, to send a student to her room and she will be happy to lend a helping hand. She then pauses, realizing Zow might not remember her name. She gives it to him, and as she walks off assures him the perceived memory lapse is fine.

“It’s okay, I know you’re still new here,” she says with a smile as she walks off.

Zow is most definitely the new man on campus at Calera, but as the school’s new football coach, he is also going to be its new face. He’s still roughly seven months from his first football game with the Eagles, but he has already taken to his work with gusto. We took a little time to catch up with the newest appointed head coach in the county and learn a little more about the journey he’s taken to get to his newest post.

Zow’s first coaching job in Shelby County was with Oak Mountain in 2011 where he was the quarterbacks coach. After a season there, he transitioned into his now-previous role as Montevallo’s head coach, which presented its own set of opportunities and challenges.

“I came from Oak Mountain to a smaller school in Montevallo, and at first I was like, ‘Oh, this is easier,’” Zow said of that transition, chuckling. “But, at the same time you got to mow the grass, you got to paint the field, you got to do everything.”

He took over a Montevallo program that had not experienced much success at any point in the last decade. With one playoff win to the program’s credit since 2002 and an average season record hovering right around 4-6 over that same span, the Bulldogs had consistently struggled to put a winning product on the gridiron. Zow was convinced he could change that.

“I always thought I could go in and just sort of fix everything real quick,” Zow said. “And that’s just never what happens. The biggest thing though for me was to learn kids. To go in and invest in kids and invest in their futures and invest in them as people, not just in football. That took about three years, but at the end I got more out of it and so did they.”

After a tough three-year stint of trying to mold and develop the kind of culture he wanted, the pieces were in place for one of the best seasons in Montevallo’s football history. The 2015 Montevallo team started 7-0, eventually finished 9-3 and won a home playoff game for the first time since 1995. The year was an unexpected leap forward for everyone outside the Montevallo locker room. In the wake of the successful season, change was brewing just six miles down the road as Wiley McKeller stepped down from his post at Calera to take on his own rebuilding effort at Vincent High School. The opportunity to advance his career with a move to a bigger school with a more consistent crop of talent intrigued Zow.

“Calera has a collective, year-in, year-out consistency of athletes,” Zow said. “Also, I thought it was better for my career, trying to move up and trying be consistent as a head coach. You’re going to have your down years anywhere, and at Montevallo, it’s hard to have those consistent years because the peaks and valleys are a little more dramatic.”

While the opportunity to move to a bigger school with a winning pedigree eventually won out, Zow is quick to speak nothing but praise about the school and community he left.

“We had something great going at Montevallo,” Zow said. “The kids, the community was so involved. We had more people at away games this year than we had at home games years before. I loved that part of it. Even when I finally got the nod that I got this job, I got so excited about having this job, but I didn’t want Montevallo to feel like I abandoned them, and I knew that was going to be the case. But a part of my heart is still there, I have so much invested in those kids and that place.”

Zow specifically mentioned how tough it was to leave the Bulldogs’ quarterback, Zac Oden. Oden has been Montevallo’s starter since his freshman year, Zow’s second year as a head coach, and the two have grown tremendously close over that time.

While leaving a place he’s helped build from the ground up was hard, he knows the decision he’s made is the right one. The excitement he has for his new team and job is palpable. And while he is still more than half a year away from his first kickoff in blue and white, he’s not shy about sharing his thoughts for the future of the program.

“I know the community has high expectations, but I can guarantee you their expectations are not higher than mine. I know it’s going to be a transition, but I expect to win and help these kids turn into productive citizens in the community.”