Wayne White is returning to his roots.
After spending the last six years as Carver Magnet School football coach, White will now lead his alma mater, Dothan High.
The Dothan City Schools Board officially approved White as the newest Tigers’ head football coach at its Monday meeting, replacing Keven Jackson, who resigned in early January after two seasons.
A 1991 Dothan graduate with 21 years of coaching experience, it will be White’s second tenure on the high school level in the city. He was head coach at Northview from 2009-11. He becomes the first person to be head football coach at both city high schools.
“I’m overwhelmed with emotions right now,” White told the Dothan Eagle . “I feel extremely humbled and honored. There is no doubt to me that this is a God thing. Anybody that knows my journey can understand that. I had a lot of prayers go up and He answered. This was God’s will.
“I am real excited about the opportunity. I am blessed. I want to thank everybody who supported me and my family who reached out in different ways. I want to thank Dr. (Phyllis) Edwards our new superintendent, Todd Weeks, our director of personnel, the school board, and Mr. Stan Eldridge, Dothan’s principal, for having confidence in me and allowing me to have this opportunity.
“Going back to where my career started means a lot to me. It is like I told the committee, I can remember in the fourth grade and onward, going to all the games in the mid and late 1980s and watching guys like Dennis Tillman, Victor Jones, Alex Thomas and Teapot Brown. I couldn’t wait to one day be a Dothan Tiger.”
White, who also was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Dothan from 1997-2005 after playing and graduating from UAB, said roaming the sidelines as the Tigers ’ head coach was his “dream job” when he got into coaching.
“I remember when coach (Jimmy) Addison would hold the end of the year evaluations, he would always ask us what our long-term goals were and I would always tell him that I wanted his job one day,” White said. “That was my goal.”
White was a standout linebacker at Dothan High under Bobby Devane, graduating from the school in 1991. He then played collegiately at UAB. In his three-year tenure as head coach at Northview, the Cougars struggled, finishing with a 7-23 record.
Eldridge believes White has grown from his Northview experience.
“He has changed from the past and learned from his mistakes,” the Dothan principal said. “He is ready to show everybody that he is the right man for Dothan High School.”
Specifically, Eldridge said White has grown, “From an organizational standpoint from his last jobs and learning some things. With our help and his demeanor, I think we can make it work. He will be good for the kids.”
White said while the Cougars weren’t successful under his leadership , he believes the experience will pay off for him now.
“You learn a lot more in the tough times and in your failures. That was a learning experience,” White said. “I hope to take those lessons and apply them to this job.”
He added going from the high school to the middle school level was a “humbling experience,” but felt it made him “a better man, a better coach, better husband and better father.”
The Tiger alum takes over a program that has gone 6-15 the last two years after several .500-type seasons.
“We have to have total buy-in from all the parents and players,” said White, who will be meeting Tiger players Tuesday. “We have to have everybody pulling in the same direction.
“We will have to believe in a positive attitude. That is where it starts at. We have to have a good work ethic. We have to hold them (the players) accountable. We have to play with a lot of passion and lot of energy.”
He said he plans to focus on a “positive” approach with players, stressing academics and the “total student-athlete,” as much as football.
“We want to win the battle of life every day,” White said. “Our motto is win each day, to win at home, win in the classroom, win in the weight room and on the practice field.”
Among his early projects, he said, is to improve the facilities, including the fieldhouse, which he said is similar to how it was when he was a player in the late 1980s.
Eldridge said the committee in charge of finding the new Tigers’ coach felt a local connection was the right need for the program.
“It was a long process as we had to go through a lot of candidates, a lot of great candidates,” Eldridge said. “We as a committee decided we would go with a local person. He brought the local flavor back to us so to speak. He wants to see Dothan High succeed.”
Eldridge said White’s passion for the school impressed the committee.
“His enthusiasm for Dothan High School,” Eldridge said when asked what stood out about White in interviews. “He is very excited to be coming back to his home where he went to school. He wanted to coach here. He wanted to be the head coach here.”
White was hired as an assistant coach at Dothan High after graduating from UAB. He was an assistant at Dothan from 1997-2005 under Addison and Jamie Kelley before moving to Northview as an assistant coach under Chip Harris in 2006. During his assistant coaching tenures, he was defensive coordinator at both Dothan and Northview.
He was hired as Northview’s head coach on April 20, 2009, replacing Harris, who left to become head coach at Ashford.
In addition to his football role, White will be a physical education teacher at Dothan High.
“I want us to bring back that ole’ Tiger spirit, that eye of the Tiger and that Tiger pride,” White said. “It all starts tomorrow.”