NORTH AUGUSTA — Jim Bob Bryant, a North Carolina native with coaching experience around North Carolina and Georgia, is the new head football coach at North Augusta High School, having been introduced Thursday evening in an event at TrueNorth Church, near the Yellow Jackets' home base.
Bryant, a 1995 graduate of East Carolina University, in Greenville, North Carolina, fielded questions at the gathering after introducing himself and his principles to a crowd of about 150 students, parents, alumni, school employees and other listeners.
"My philosophy is, we have to build the man first and then build the player," he said, in response to a question about his philosophy regarding football in high school.
"I think we build high-character men first. We do a character development lesson every week during the spring, every week during the season, and that goes from everything from how to track grades to how to treat women to being a good son – all of that kind of stuff. We also do a proverb for football for football every day during the season. Read that proverb, and there's a football story after it," he said.
"I think you build the man first. You build the character of the man, kind of like the military. Tear them down, build them back up in the way you want them built."
He also introduced a concept for aspiring Yellow Jackets to keep in mind with the approach of the 2020 season: "E.A.T.," standing for effort, accountability and toughness.
Bryant, whose background also includes competition in basketball, baseball, track and (until he was old enough to play football) soccer, was most recently the head football coach at North Paulding High School, in Dallas, Georgia, in Atlanta's northwestern suburbs. He spent two seasons there in what is generally regarded as one of the country's toughest regions in prep football.
Among major highlights in Bryant's career so far was a nine-year stretch, starting in 2008, at Havelock High, near New Bern, in coastal North Carolina. During his tenure, the Rams played for four AAA state titles and won three of them (2011-13), and Bryant was also chosen as the state's Associated Press "Coach of the Year" in both 2011 and 2013. His 2019 squad at North Paulding, plagued by injuries, went 7-5, and Bryant's all-time record as a head coach is now 180-51.
North Paulding has about 2,600 students and competes at the AAAAAAA level. A longer biography of the new coach is available at scoreatl.com, from when Bryant was honored in the Atlanta Falcons' "Coach of the Week" program, in early November 2019.
Bryant's players can expect to "earn everything they get," he said. "I love football, and I plan on being in this community for a long time, but ... I have no allegiances to parents in this community. My allegiance is, I'm coaching your sons. I'm going to put the best 11 on the field, regardless of who their mama and daddy is, regardless of if they're white, black, green or yellow. Whoever's going to get North Augusta the best chance to win, that's who's going to play on the field."
He said he expects his players to "play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back."
Growing up in North Carolina, he played quarterback at Williamston High and Guilford College, wearing No. 7 for both schools. His playing years were abbreviated by injuries that led to his transfer to East Carolina.
His teen years included receiving "the Governor’s Award for Bravery and Heroism for rescuing two people caught in rip currents at Atlantic Beach," also in North Carolina. He is a self-described "adrenaline junkie," with a background that includes having been taken for a flight in a Blue Angels jet over Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, also in coastal North Carolina.
Looking toward the fall of 2020, Bryant said, "I do not meet with parents about playing time. I'll meet with parents any time they want to talk about anything outside of playing time and philosophy, but if your son wants to know why he's not playing, the chain of command is, he goes to his position coach first. He talks to him. If he's not satisfied with that, he goes to the coordinator. If he's not satisfied with that, he comes to me ... My philosophy is, I always put the team before the individual. What is the best for the entire team is what we're going to do as a program."
Bryant, as the head football coach, succeeds Brian Thomas, who remains the Yellow Jackets' athletic director but was announced by the Aiken County school district, in November 2019, as no longer the football coach.
Thomas, during his tenure in North Augusta, led the team to a 49-23 record overall and had an 18-10 tally in region games. He came on board in March 2014.
Thomas' Yellow Jackets won 10 games in a season three times, including a 10-3 record in 2018 as they reached the third round of the Class AAAA playoffs. The 2019 squad's season came to an end in the first round of the playoffs, with a 38-31 triple-overtime loss to North Myrtle Beach. Thomas' 2019 crew, rocked by injuries, won three consecutive games against Aiken County rivals to secure a third-place finish in the league following a 2-5 start.