By Jason Brassell
It was a full house at Russell County High School last Thursday, as parents, players, and community members filled up the library to meet new Russell County head football coach, Mark Rose and his new staff. The standing room only crowd clapped and cheered in excitement as Principal Shelia Baker and Superintendent Brenda Coley spoke and introduced Rose. Those cheers grew louder when Rose talked about making sure his players would be taken care of physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The cheers were robust when Rose exclaimed, “We’re gonna win here at Russell County.”
Every one of these aspects were emphasized in new mission statement for the football program:
“Develop players academically, athletically, and spiritually by inspiring them to meet expectations at a championship level in every area, while providing them with a solid family environment to help them thrive and grow and conquer the challenges in their daily lives.”
Of course, Rose isn’t expected to do this alone and he has hired a strong staff to work with him on this mission statement daily. Branden Hall was announced as the new Assistant Head Coach. He will also be the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. Hall was born in Auburn and attended Auburn High School. He played college football at Troy State University before spending the 2004-2005 season in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. He brings state championship experience with him to Russell County, coaching the past six years at Central High School.
The remaining staff includes offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Cody Keene; defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Clinton Britton; running backs and secondary coach Demario Billingslea; offensive line and linebackers coach Jarrod Wooten; receivers and defensive backs coach Sam Moates. Rose also introduced Cody Massey as the JV head coach and Eric Chamberlain as the assistant JV coach.
Rose’s main goal for his staff and football team on the field is to play at a championship level. That’s what he has been a part of as a player and a coach. He was a player on three of Auburn’s SEC Championship teams from 1987-1989. He has won 10 region championships with a 102-33 region record at three different schools. Rose has guided six teams to a perfect regular season 10-0 record, one team to a state championship game, three teams to the semifinals, and numerous quarter-final appearances. He has also had too many players to count that have earned college scholarships to play football at the next level.
This is where Rose’s connections with former teammates, players, and other coaches come into play. The main way to get a player on track for a scholarship offer is to get them in front of college coaches. This is already happening at Russell County. Charles Kelley has already come by the school. He is a former teammate at Auburn and the current secondary coach at The University of Alabama. Rose coached Derrick Ansley in high school. He is the current defensive coordinator at Tennessee and will be by regularly. Other coaches that plan to come by this spring are Georgia special teams coach Scott Fountain; Troy defensive coordinator Brandon Hall; Mississippi State special teams coordinator Joey Jones; Auburn receivers coach Kodi Burns, and many others.
Whether it be playing at a championship level or hosting college football coaches, Rose and his staff knows it all begins with hard work in the classroom, in the weight room, and on the practice field. In fact, this is what his teams have been known for. Starting at the middle school level and all the way up to the seniors, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a harder working team in 6A football.
That often leads to winning football games, which Rose made clear he’s there to do. Based on the excitement from Thursday night’s crowd, it is also clear that they too are ready to do their part to “win here at Russell County.”