Moving into unfamiliar territory isn’t always easy and starting a new chapter in your life provides its own obstacles as well, regardless of the scenario. However, Cooper Crowell is looking to establish himself as a head football coach in a new town for North Lamar High School. Both his competitive and coaching experience should provide additional positive momentum for him in his quest to succeed at the helm for the Panthers in his first head-coaching gig.
Crowell began playing sports at a young age, and he even played linebacker at East Texas Baptist University after a successful football-playing career at Royse City High School. Crowell did not specialize in just one sport, though. In fact, playing more than one sport has been an emphasis for him as both a player and a coach, which will be a cornerstone value in Crowell’s new football program.
“I don’t remember what really got me into sports, but it was probably being outside and playing with my friends. I always loved doing that,” Crowell said. “Playing sports is really what led me to coaching and my coaching philosophy because I played football, basketball, baseball, golf, powerlifting and track. Growing up in Royse City, I was able to do all that stuff and I loved it. I wanted to be in every single sport to compete, and that’s kind of the reason I was so excited to move to (Midlothian) Heritage (High School) when I went there because the big motto there is ‘multi-sport athlete.’ It encourages the kids to play all the sports they want to, which is what I’m trying to bring here. We don’t want just football players, we want athletes. I had a blast in high school getting to play all those sports, be around the other kids and compete.”
After his playing days came to an end, Crowell had no desire to leave the field. Instead, he took what he learned from the teachers of the game before him and held the valuable lessons he learned close to him. With that, Crowell knew what he wanted to do next and how to make it all practical.
“I think two to three guys had a really big impact on me,” Crowell said. “One of them was my high school coach Rodney Webb. He’s at (Denton) Guyer now, but he came into the program my sophomore year and really turned it around and really turned around the atmosphere. He made us believe in ourselves more, taught us how to really work and that we can get stuff done. He’s had a really big impact on me and it all has helped me a ton in my career. Our defensive coordinator, and I mainly played defense there, had a big impact on me, too. He was a great classroom teacher, was a deacon at our church, and really showed me the right way to coach and connect with kids. He taught me to coach kids differently. You don’t have to coach every kid the same. Some kids you can jump on them and they will respond to it, but some don’t. He was just the master of getting the most out of everybody.”
Although his coaches are still highly revered and influential in his eyes, Crowell knows they too are only human, which was evident during a fiery halftime speech from his head coach during his collegiate playing days.
“We were at East Texas Baptist and we were playing Hardin-Simmons, and it was a close game (at the half),” Crowell said. “Our coach was trying to get us fired up and pumped up, and I don’t remember what he said, but it was a great pump-up speech. We were about to go out there ready to roll. He starts pounding this little table in front of him and he hit the whiteboard behind him with his fist. He continued to go on and he jarred that whiteboard loose, and it smoked him in the back of the head. It pretty much ruined the whole halftime moment.”
Before moving into the 903 area code, Crowell had his times of adventure and overcoming challenges, with one of those completing a less-than-modest 26.2-mile run around White Rock Lake in Dallas.
“In 2017, I ran the Dallas Marathon. The full marathon,” Crowell said. “I was about to turn 30, and I was like, ‘Man, I better do something before I start this downhill.’ I wondered about the hardest thing I could finish, and it was the marathon, so that was pretty cool.”
Back in his days at Royse City, Crowell recalls a senior trip with comical and memorable moments yet still remains a somewhat painful and embarrassing experience.
“My senior year trip, we went to the Bill Bates Ranch. We were playing sand volleyball and were swimming, and then they blew up this 100-foot slip-n-slide, so we turned this into a contest really quick,” Crowell said. “We’re starting 30 yards back sprinting onto it, trying to see who will slide the furthest off of it and I think someone had just beaten the record. So, I go for it. I dove on and a kid jumped on it the wrong way coming from the other side and I broke my wrist. So to this day, I tell everyone that I broke my wrist on a slip-n-slide. It’s always a terrible story to tell, man.”
Ever since entering the field of coaching, Crowell knew it was his destiny to ultimately head a program, and accepting the position as head coach for the North Lamar football team provides him with the opportunity to have a substantial and positive influence over all the players instead of solely one unit of the team.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant or anything, but I’ve always felt like I was supposed to be a head coach,” Crowell said. “It’s probably because my head coach in high school was so influential to me, and your position coaches are and your coordinators are, but when you look at the head coach — that’s just the guy that sets the tone and culture for the whole program where you can make the biggest impact on the most amount of kids. When I was the offensive coordinator at Heritage, I made a big impact on the offensive guys, but I didn’t spend a lot of time with the defensive guys. It’s just kind of how it is, but as the head coach, I feel like everyone can look at you and you can connect with so many more kids.”
Even still, finding the right fit professionally is just one half of the equation. In addition to this, Crowell needed to make sure of something even more important — if this move was the best for both he and his family.
“When I was looking for a head coaching job, the first thing I looked for was, ‘Would I want to send my kids to school here, and would I want my kids to grow up in the community?” Crowell said. “This is exactly the size of the town we were looking at. It’s perfect. It’s got a nice town, but you can get into the country, there are shops, stuff to do around here and great schools. One of my daughters will be in third grade and my younger daughter will be starting kindergarten this year. That’s the number one thing I look for is a place that I want my family to be. After that, does it have good administration, good leadership, and are they going to support athletics? Looking at our school board, it looks like they’re going to be really great and supportive of athletics. They’re going to make sure the school is run well. Mrs. (Kelli) Stewart is a stud and is doing everything she can to help us out, and (Kendal) Kirk is going to battle for us on anything we need with our budget, coaching staff and moving teaching fields around.”
Along with encouraging athletes to play multiple sports, Crowell wants to fuel the culture of his football program by strong performance in the weight room and good physical fitness. These aspects should complement the needs of the team along with endurance being key for the Panthers amongst the difficult competition in District 8 of Class 4A, Division II. North Lamar’s new district features opponents the likes of Gilmer and Pleasant Grove, the two-time state champion in the last three years.
“The two key pillars I want to bring are strength and conditioning…and we want to be cutting edge offensively,” Crowell said. “We have Coach (Patrick) Watkins, who is just phenomenal. We are trying to train athletes to be explosive. We’re not really trying to train like powerlifters or anything, but we’re trying to be in the weight room and use it as much as we can to really get the most out of these kids.”
Offensively, the Panthers look to apply the pressure on their opponents through a diverse attack.
“On offense, we want to be on top of it. We want to run stuff that’s simple, easy, and that players can get but makes the defenses (we play against) struggle. We want to run it inside, we want to run RPO (run-pass options). We want to be a lot like Baylor and Guz Malzahn-coached teams where we don’t run as much tempo as them, but we’re just trying to stress everyone on the field. We don’t want to just let a linebacker line up and fill A-gap all night. When he’s doing that, we can just dump one (pass) over his head and even if it slows him down a step, it gives us a great chance.”
Overall, Crowell’s new foundation should not just benefit football players. Instead, he aims for the entire athletic program to improve noticeably across the board.
“We want to put an emphasis on the weight room, being a multi-sport athlete and getting kids competing all the time,” Crowell said. “We don’t want to be known as just a football, basketball or baseball school. When I tell people I coach at North Lamar, I want them to think, ‘Man, y’all’s program that y’all run is phenomenal.’ I don’t want anyone to think of us as a one-sport town.”
As coaches remain some of the most pressured and distressed humans in the working world, finding a happy place is paramount. For Crowell, he has a couple of different escape routes from reality when the job takes its toll.
“I probably have a couple. One is just to get away from the fieldhouse and go hang out with my daughters, to be honest,” Crowell said. “I go from big, tough, weight-room football guys to playing with Barbies and dolls. It’s always good to be with them. My other place is to just get on YouTube and just watch every funny video they have on there to try to remove myself from the situation.”
As we enter a year and football season of continued uncertainty, Crowell aims to make an impact and start building on the foundation of his new program early and often.