After spending the past four years as the North Lamar Panthers’ athletic director and head football coach, Aaron Emeyabbi recently announced he has accepted a new position as defensive coordinator for the Class 2A Hamilton High School Bulldogs football team.
A graduate from North Lamar High School, Emeyabbi came back to his hometown after a successful five-year run as Ferris High School’s head football coach and athletic director. In his first year with North Lamar, Emeyabbi guided the Panthers to a playoff appearance and a near-victory at R.L. Maddox Stadium over Paris High School. In that game, the Wildcats clipped the Panthers 42-35 in the final minutes.
Emeyabbi worked to change the culture of North Lamar football until he and his family turned the page to the next chapter. After he knew it was time to move on to a new school with a new role, Emeyabbi knew who his top consultants would be in making the key decision.
“My family. I want to do right for my family and my daughters,” Emeyabbi said. “Kobey has graduated and I got to focus on him ever since he started on athletics and school. With him graduating, the focus moved to what was best for my daughters and my wife. Ultimately, that was when I knew to make that move, and it was an easy decision.”
Having success during his previous coaching stops helped him land his new job and create his own brand, but it didn’t change any difficulties of the logistics surrounding a big move.
“As far as coaching, people kind of know what you’ve done in certain places,” Emeyabbi said. “As a head coach, I’ve been to the playoffs six or seven out of nine years and won two district titles with Ferris (High School) during that stretch. I became known as a defensive-minded guy and a defensive coordinator around the state. I had a bunch of guys contact me when they knew I was out on the search, and it wasn’t hard. When you network with people, it’s really not hard. The other part about finding the right house, selling stuff — that process is tough, but the Lord has blessed me and my family my whole life.”
The decision is now locked in and final, as Emeyabbi announced his new position as the defensive coordinator for the Class 2A Hamilton High School Bulldogs, which proved to be the perfect fit for what he and his family were looking for.
“Once the decision was final and once we kind of knew about a year ago that opportunities had arisen, it became a family decision,” Emeyabbi said. “It was the girls’ turn. I allowed my daughters and wife to pick the place. Some of the things we needed were for the administration to be solid, Hamilton’s is. They had to have a good athletic program, Hamilton does have a good program, and the girl’s program is phenomenal. They also wanted to be in a school this size. It was ultimately their decision and I told them whatever they wanted to do, we were going to base it off my wife’s coaching and my daughters.”
Joining a program with athletic success and tradition was a top priority for Emeyabbi, but even more so for the girls in his family. In addition to that, Hamilton’s supportive community and school district catered to their desires, making the decision a simple one for the Emeyabbi family.
“The football program has been good,” Emeyabbi said. “It’s unfortunate with the situation we were in and not being able to build on the first playoff year the first year I was there. There’s a lot of things that go into that, and I take responsibility on my part, but it takes a family and a team effort to really have success in football — it takes a whole number of people…Coming to Hamilton and seeing the support that they have with the administration, staff and community that they’ve had, I don’t see any reason why I can’t go in there and install what I’ve done in multiple states at multiple high schools and have had success with on the defensive side of the ball. I want to get back to coaching kids and take a break from the administrative part. I want to focus more on kids for a while. I feel very fortunate that I’m in a place where everybody I’ve talked to and associated with around this area does look at kids first. It doesn’t matter who their parent is or anything like that, they’re going to do right for all kids, and I really like that.”
Strong families know the importance of sacrifice, and that’s exactly what Emeyabbi’s family did for him with his opportunity at North Lamar. Although he is onto the next step in his coaching journey, Emeyabbi cherishes the time he had along with the selflessness of his family.
“My family has sacrificed a lot over the last nine years, mainly over the last four,” Emeyabbi said. “It was tough on them and certainly tough on my wife in dealing with the situation we had to go through. To be able to kind of alleviate a little bit of that that was a big driving force and to be able to sit back and watch my daughters succeed in athletics was the biggest driving force…They picked this place, and it happened pretty much in a day whenever the decision was made. Life is great, and there’s not a whole lot to stress or worry about right now.”
He is appreciative of the time spent and memories he made with Panther Nation but is equally grateful for a new change of scene and a fresh start for everyone involved.
“I was happy they allowed me to go back to North Lamar to be around my father for the last four years,” Emeyabbi said. “Hamilton is a great place. When I looked at the administration, I saw the superintendent has been here for several years, and I really admire the consistency they run their administration with. It was difficult where I just came from having five superintendents in four years, and that’s tough on anybody, but most of my experiences with them overall have been great. I couldn’t ask for a better group right there, it’s just unfortunate about the situation we were in. I wish them all well and am glad my family and I are moving into a positive direction.”
As for the Bulldogs defense, Emeyabbi wants to instill a strong sense of fundamentals and effort, which is something he implemented at North Lamar. Even though it is just the beginning of his tenure with Hamilton, Emeyabbi has already seen encouraging signs with this group.
“I just want to make sure we do the fundamentals defensively right,” Emeyabbi said. “First and foremost, you’ve got to line up right. If you can’t line up by not lining up right, that comes down to coaching. The mentality has to come in where they have to be able to communicate and know where their responsibility is after they line up right. The rest of it after that is flying around with your hair on fire. All that good stuff are things you like in a good defense. I got to meet the kids the other day, and they’re a very good group of kids — probably about 57 football players out for summer workouts. The numbers aren’t what I’m used to…but they take it (football) very seriously around here for sure.”
Adjusting to a new life and a new job is usually a challenge, but Emeyabbi sees the many benefits he gained during his time at North Lamar, which keeps him grateful for the time he had and even more grateful for what he will be experiencing going forward.
“I was just most thankful to get back and go see people I haven’t seen in 20 or more years, to be able to coach their kids and to be around my father,” Emeyabbi said. “Some of the best times I’ve had with my father have been in the last four years of my life. I’ll always be thankful to see old friends and be around my dad after my mom passed away…Coming back made the decision easy and being able to spend the last four years with him, I would go through whatever I had to go through again to be able to spend that time with him. Getting to coach those kids at my alma mater and letting my son graduate from there was a great learning lesson…I don’t regret it…There are just certain things that eat at a man. I operate a certain way, and I’m never going to change. Once you see that things aren’t going to go in a certain direction that you want it to go in life, then, by all means, anybody in the world should make a change to better themselves.”
Just like he preached to the blue and gold community, Emeyabbi’s overall message remains consistent in his passionate, kids-first approach.
“I’m always going to put the kids first no matter what anybody says,” Emeyabbi said. “My decision are based on those kids, and I am going to put them first. If they listen to me and do what I ask them to do, I’ll show them that I care and the rest will be history after that.”
Hamilton comes off a 6-5 season and a bi-district appearance, where its defense surrendered fewer than 30 points in each of its six wins. Emeyabbi led North Lamar to a playoff appearance in 2016, a 42-13 loss to Terrell in the bi-district round, and his Panther teams’ primary strength over the last four years was its defense.