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Etheridge takes over Rockdale football

CONYERS - Rockdale High School recently addressed its vacant head football coaching position by hiring coaching veteran Mike Etheridge.

Etheridge, who spent the last seven years as an assistant coach at Salem, has been coaching for 36 years. Rockdale will be his second high school head coaching job. Etheridge replaces coach William Johnson who stepped down after one year at Rockdale.

Etheridge said he wants his players to feel like he is a coach they can count on.

"I hope to bring some stability to Rockdale. With Rockdale having so many coaching changes over the years, I'm hoping to change some attitudes, get rid of any negativity and try to get back to a positive note," he said. "The good thing about Rockdale is that Rockdale has won before. We're trying to bring it back. It's not going to be a quick fix or an instant change, but we're planning on getting after it and working hard to be a winning team.

"Anytime you come in somewhere new, attitude is everything. We want to make everything as positive as possible. Our goal is to outwork everybody else. We've got some kids that have really worked hard in the off-season. The key is getting the other 60 to 80 to work hard and get stronger. ... With a weight program and kids believing in themselves, success will come with work."

Etheridge said his coaching philosophy stems from putting the team before oneself.

"Our thing is believing in the team concept. We've got to get these kids believing in themselves and working as one," he said.

With hard work and dedication, Etheridge hopes to elevate Rockdale's football program to new levels.

"We're going to put the pride back in Rockdale - that's one of our goals. I think the pride is here, but we've got to bring the pride back to the football program," he said. "We want this to be a very close-knit group. We want our team to be like a family.

"I love kids. I probably have one of the few jobs that you can get up in the morning and come and play. I come to school and play with the kids and I enjoy it. I like going into the weight room, working with younger folks and trying to make things better. That's why I'm still doing it. To me, it's fun."

Etheridge began his coaching career as a middle school football coach in LaGrange. His first high school coaching job was under Max Bass at Newnan High School where he coached for 11 years. His first head coaching job was at Jackson County High School where he coached for four years.

After that, he coached for three years as an assistant at Bradwell Institute in Hinesville. From there, he went on to coach at Etowah for two years. He spent eight years as an assistant at Pierce County High School before spending the last seven at Salem.

Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@rockdalecitizen.com.