The search for the next John Tyler head football coach shifted to the second phase on Thursday, with candidates going through the interview stage.
Those questioned for the open JT position included current Lions assistants Paul Frye and Ricklan Holmes, and DeSoto defensive coordinator Kendrick Brown.
The interview committee consisted of TISD’s three-man crew of Superintendent Dr. Randy Reid, athletic director Rod Kaspar and JT principal Shon Joseph.
Frye served as JT’s assistant head coach the last two seasons under Dereck Rush, who left last month to take the job at Conroe Oak Ridge.
The school district posted the job for two weeks before moving along.
The decision figures to come soon, with JT two weeks from its scheduled Blue-White game.
Holmes has been the team’s acting coach during spring workouts, which started on Monday. Holmes, who graduated from JT in 1998, helped the Lions defense intercept 49 passes the past two years.
Brown, a 1991 JT graduate, oversaw a talented DeSoto defense which ranked among the best in the Metroplex last year.
Frye factored into a record-breaking offense that scored 645 points last year.
Holmes cited continuity within the community and program as strengths in his candidacy. He gained experience as a head coach this past season, with the JT girls qualifying for regionals in eight different events and placed second in district.
“They understand this is what we’ve been doing and like doing,” said Holmes, one of four JT graduates on the current staff. “I think that’s the best thing for the kids. It’s really not a transition. Basically all they’re doing is going from one coach to another, but the same coach.”
Frye feels he can lead JT after serving as head coach in two previous places. He currently holds a second title as head girls soccer coach, leading the Lady Lions to the state playoffs for the first time in 11 years last month.
“I want what’s best for John Tyler High School and more importantly the kids,” Frye said. “I want to win a state championship. If not Ricklan, it needs to be me leading us.”
With less than a month left in the school year, Frye pointed to staying in-house with the hire to ease the transition.
“We’re in spring ball, why mess that up,” Frye said. “Everything is going good. Things are moving. The best decision is to leave it like it is.”
Brown played receiver on JT’s 1990 playoff team. His younger brother Darwin Brown, a former draft pick for the Denver Broncos, played defensive back on the1994 state championship team.
He lived near the JT campus, and spent countless days at the school, even envisioning the current situation.
“I’ve always been a great historian of John Tyler football,” Brown said. “It’s a great program. It’s always been a place as a child I dreamed I was the coach.”
Brown built DeSoto’s defense into an overnight success. DeSoto dwindled its scoring defense in half.
At DeSoto, Brown brought in a 3-4 scheme, which paid immediate dividends. He hopes he gets the chance to do the same for JT, which averaged 43 points per game last year and allowed nearly 29.
JT returns 17 starters from a 11-4 team and already holds a preseason No. 1 ranking in one poll.
“I’m very aware where they are as a program,” Brown said. “I think the on-the-field stuff will take care of itself. I’m excited about the opportunity to build from the middle schools up and continue (the tradition). I would like for it to be high expectations every year.”
John Tyler Football Coaching Candidates*
Current Post: DeSoto, defensive coordinator
College: North Texas, Dallas Baptist
Experience: Lancaster (1996-00) — wide receivers, passing game coordinator; Dallas Hillcrest (2001-03) — secondary, running backs; Lewisville Hebron (2004-06) — secondary; Arlington Seguin (2007-2010) — defensive coordinator; DeSoto (2011-present) defensive coordinator.
Noteworthy: Brown, a former wide receiver, played on the first JT team in 1990 to go by the “Cujo” nickname. The name became a rallying cry, especially after JT defeated defending state champion Odessa Permian, known as “Mojo.” Brown and his wife Keisha, the daughter of late JT girls track coach Emma Barrett, have two daughters.
Quoteworthy: “The reputation at DeSoto was they didn’t play defense. We (gave up) 15 points a game. What I’ve been doing I’ve been good at it. Working at Hebron and DeSoto and with some quality coaches, it’s prepared me. I’m ready.”
Current Post: John Tyler, assistant head coach/offensive line/head girls’ soccer coach
College: Abilene Christian
Experience: Chapel Hill (1990-94) — offensive line, head boys soccer coach, head boys and girls golf coach; Arp (1995-99) — defensive coordinator/assistant head coach, 95-97, athletic director/head coach, 98-99; Arlington (2000) — co-defensive coordinator; Robert E. Lee (2001-06) — quarterbacks/receivers; Alba-Golden (2006-07) — head coach; John Tyler (2008-present) — defensive line, offensive line, assistant head coach, head girls soccer coach
Noteworthy: Frye earned All-Lone Star Conference honors twice as a middle linebacker in college, where he played with Robert E. Lee assistant Gary Fleet. Frye and Fleet both served as coaches on Lee’s 2004 state championship team.
Quoteworthy: “I bring the same kind of leadership. Those kids love me. I’ve built a rapport with them. They’ll play as hard for me as for anybody.”
Current Post: John Tyler, secondary coach/girls head track coach
College: Oklahoma State
Experience: Putman City (2004-06) — defensive backs; John Tyler (2007-present) — secondary, head JV coach, head girls track coach.
Noteworthy: Holmes played on two state championship contenders at JT, the 1996 quarterfinalists and 1997 state semifinalists. He spent a part of two seasons with the New England Patriots, and coached St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, a converted safety, during his first coaching job at Class 6A Putman City.
Quoteworthy: “I started my career playing under a legend, Allen Wilson. In Oklahoma I started under a legend, Mark Little at Putman City. Now (I could be the) successor to a soon-to-be-legend, (Dereck) Rush. By me (possibly) stepping in behind him and understanding the things he does, it makes it better for me and the kids.”
*— No other candidates could be confirmed through Tyler Independent School District.