VERSAILLES, Ky (WTVQ) – Culture…ask any football coach if you’re trying to change one it takes time. Step one…defining it.
“We represent ourself by culture. What we do everyday. How we represent each other,” said senior running back Isaac Reed. “We work hard. Make sure that we do good everyday. We push ourselves. No bad days. That’s what Coach Johnson says…no bad days.”
No bad days. Easier said than done. In 2017, Head Coach Dennis Johnson and his yellow jackets had some bad days. They were winless, 0-11. Last season, the gradual progression of building that culture got them to 6 wins. The most for the program since 2011.
“I feel like the guys have started to work a lot harder,” says senior wide receiver Nick O’Toole. “And like they have a, like they want to do it more. They’re not just showing up, they have a reason to. You have to have your why. If you don’t have a why, you’re just not motivated.”
Getting guys to discover that “why” and building a culture is definitely not easy, but for a guy who has football running through his family. Johnson has some help.
“I spent a lot of time talking to my father who did this for years. And he said every year at Harrodsburg wasn’t great,” said Woodford Co. Head Coach Dennis Johnson. “You just gotta fight it out, but our kids have done a great job and my coaches. I got 12-13 coaches who are here everyday and they love it and they constantly instill the passion and pride. It’s not about Friday. It’s about working through the week to get to Friday which you’ll get your result.”
Six wins is nice, but the Yellow Jackets know they can’t get content now. Not when they have to keep succeeding, but also replace some studs including one of the program’s most prolific rushers of all time, Amartae Rice.
“Two or there guys, Our all-time leading rusher, my big tackle went to Eastern Illinois. My son is going to West Virginia State,” said Coach Johnson. “So we lost some guys, but we’ve got some guys coming back. Our line was young last year. I’ve got a few skill guys coming back. My quarterback is gonna be a junior.”
As for specifically replacing Rice, Isaac Reed is ready to have that task head on.
“Making sure I step in the role for Amartae Rice. Run the rock as hard as I can.”
As a team, Reed says the Yellow Jackets have been putting in work and they won’t be pushed around any more.
“We had a bunch of teams that could out muscle us because we had a very small team last year. So we focused on putting up pressure, putting up muscle and working very hard.