By Greg Peterson, Sports Editor
New head football coach Clay Hendrix wants to hit the ground running after he was introduced as the 23rd head coach in Furman football history Dec. 19, 2016.
Hendrix arrived at Furman with 31 years of coaching experience. He spent his last 10 seasons at the Air Force Academy. Hendrix is ecstatic to have his first chance as a head coach, especially at his alma mater.
“I am glad to have the opportunity to be a head coach. We had a lot of success here while I was at Furman and it is just a great place to be,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix is no stranger to Paladin football. He came to Furman in 1982 as an offensive guard; he earned a starting position for three years and won three Southern Conference (SoCon) championships in 1982, ’83 and ’85.
Hendrix earned an all-state recognition his senior year and played on Paladin teams that recorded wins over South Carolina (1982), Georgia Tech (1983) and North Carolina State (1984 and ’85) during his playing career.
After graduation, Hendrix signed on to coach at N.C. State for the 1986-87 seasons and returned to Furman in 1988 as an offensive line coach. He went on to become an accomplished coach for the Paladins for 19 seasons, amassing a 155-55-1 record, six SoCon championships, 11 NCAA playoff appearances, a national runner-up finish in 2001 — and the 1988 national championship win — the first by a SoCon school and private university in Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) history.
In 2007, Hendrix took his talents to Colorado as the offensive line coach at the Air Force Academy. After spending several seasons as the offensive line coach, Hendrix became associate head coach from 2010 to 2016. During that time, he helped produce some of the top rushing attacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Through 10 years at Air Force, Hendrix had a 76-53 record, nine bowl game appearances and led the Mountain West Conference (MWC) in rushing for eight of those seasons.
Now that Hendrix is in charge of the purple reign, he is determined to transform Paladin football into a SoCon powerhouse. Over the last two seasons, the Paladins have had a combined win total of 7 games, but Hendrix is up to the challenge.
“I feel that I could be the guy to bring Furman back in the right direction. We have a great caliber of student here at Furman,” Hendrix said.
Coming along with Hendrix are new coaches for the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Drew Cronic will be the new offensive coordinator for the Paladins and Chad Staggs is the new defensive coordinator.
“Drew Cronic has had a great run of success and was here at Furman from 1982-86. We have a similar coaching philosophy. He knows running the ball is important but that we should still be able to throw it as well.”
Cronic served as an assistant to coach for the Paladins from 2002-10 and then went to Reinhardt University in Georgia, where he was head coach for his last two seasons with the Eagles. He led the Eagles to a 13-1 campaign this past season and recorded a semifinal finish in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) playoffs with a team that averaged 51.1 points and 550.6 yards per game.
Staggs was defensive coordinator at Charleston Southern for the past four years and led a Buccaneer unit that led the Big South and was ranked seventh nationally in total defense only allowing 294.1 yards per game. Staggs has also served as defensive coordinator at Delta State University and North Greenville University and was a graduate assistant at the University of South Carolina.
“Chad Staggs is an Upstate native and has done a great job at Charleston Southern. He has seen a little bit of everything as far as opposing offenses go and has been very successful,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix and company are preparing for the upcoming 2017 season and will be hard at work to ensure that the Paladins regain their spot as a football powerhouse. The Paladins will open the season against longtime rival Wofford Sept. 2 next semester.