Rich Fendley has high ambitions for what the Bowdon High School football program can become in the near future and he's wasted no time in taking what he feels are the necessary steps to elevate the Red Devils to first-class status.
Approved as BHS's new head football coach by the Carroll County Board of Education on Dec. 11, the former Westside, Macon defensive coordinator has spent the past few months laying the groundwork for the vision of his new program while endearing himself to the folks in "The Friendly City."
Reflecting on getting settled into his new digs, the veteran coach was grateful that he got an opportunity to hit the ground running as soon as the start of the spring semester.
"One of the most impressive things was Mr. (Scott) Cowart and Mrs. (Zoe) Evans getting me in here the first of January to go ahead and get the program running under my leadership. That meant a lot to me instead of waiting a semester so we could kind of get a jump-start on everything. It's been a big blessing," Fendley said on Wednesday.
"The first two months have been great and the administration is wonderful over here. If there's something that we feel needs to be done, they'll help out and get it done. They're very supportive. On top of that, the kids are awesome and hungry. I've been impressed with how hard they work and them doing what I ask them to do. They want to work and they're trying to impress me as much as I'm trying to impress them. I don't think the first two months could've gone any better."
Serving as the strength and conditioning coordinator at both Heard County and Westside, Macon between 2008-17, Fendley has already made himself at home with his players in the weight room.
Competing at the GACA Class A State Weightlifting Championships in Louisville last Saturday, the Red Devils had several lifters place in the competition, including junior defensive end/fullback Zaylin Wood, who took home first in his weight class (206-245)
"We got there Friday to spend the night as kind of an overnight bonding trip for the kids," Fendley said. "We went and competed hard and performed well for two months worth of work. That's all we've done, as far as football or anything athletic related."
With players participating in other sports throughout the spring, the Bowdon head man indicated that they will not have a formal practice session this spring. Instead, he's planning for a three-day skills combine sometime in late April.
"It's basically a mini-camp just to get the kids out there and put them through things like agility and speed tests," Fendley commented. "Just a couple of endurance things so we can watch them move and get them conditioned for when we start installation stuff in the summer. From there, we'll have them in the right places moving forward toward our August scrimmages."
In the meantime, the first-year head coach has been finalizing his coaching staff. That includes former Heard County assistant Jake Yates at offensive coordinator, former Ranburne (Ala.) assistant Clayton Young as running backs coach and his brother, Matt Fendley, who comes over from Alabama's Class AAA runner-up Randolph County as offensive line coach.
"I'm bringing in a young, energetic coaching staff that's of an age to where they can relate to kids because a lot of football is just relating to kids and getting them to go as hard as they can and do the things that you teach them during the week on Friday night," Fendley said. "They're all already close by, so they can get here and get a little bit involved with the kids."
Fendley, the son of the late Warner Robins state champion coach Richard Fendley, Sr., comes into Bowdon with 22 years of Peach State coaching experience under his belt. In particular, his nine years working within a successful Heard County program motivated him to want spread that same culture elsewhere.
"Heard County was a great place and I loved it there, but I would look at other schools that we played and saw that those kids weren't getting the same experience our kids were," Fendley said. "I talked to (Heard County head coach) Tim Barron and said that I want to offer this experience to other kids."
And after a year as Westside, Macon, Fendley found himself back in west Georgia where he has a vision for what the Bowdon program can become.
"I'm a first-class guy and I want everything to be first class. Coming in here, we've got great facilities, but at the same time, my mind's always on what can we do to make it better here," Fendley said.
"We want to glamorize and get more pictures of college athletes hung up on the walls. We want pictures of coach (Dwight) Hochstetler and the tradition of Bowdon High School with all of the region titles and state titles. I want them up where people can see them. I want the field turfed and that's something I'm going to push hard for just to upgrade that part of the facilities here."
And part of those first-class upgrades include new digs for his players. He's aiming to hold a ceremony for it as an unofficial christening of a new era for Bowdon football.
"I'm planning what I'm calling a uniform reveal night. We're getting some new uniforms, a new helmet look and we're going to make a big deal out of it for the community. Supposedly they've been shipped so as soon as we get them, we're going to set a date. Maybe the third week of March," Fendley said.
"We're going to have smoke machines, some music. I've got some former players that are playing college football coming back to model the uniforms. I'm also going to introduce the new coaches to the community on that day and do a bio bout them. We're going to do this in front of the entire community and make it exciting."
Excitement is exactly what Fendley has in mind over these next few months, especially in regard to his players. His ultimate goal is to create an environment that they will never forget.
"I want the kids to have one of the greatest high school experiences and memories when they look back on their high school career. Something that they'll talk about into their 60s and 70s," Fendley said. "I've got two little ones that are going to come up through this program and I want it rolling and extremely fun when they get up here, as well."