By: Sammy Clough, Columnist
College Football season is just around the corner as first year head coach Clay Hendrix looks to lead the Furman Paladins to victory against conference rival Wofford in the season opener this Saturday, September 2.
The Paladins hope to improve on last year’s record of 3-8 after Hendrix returns to Furman to become its 23rd head football coach.
Hendrix, a 1986 graduate of Furman, helped lead the Paladins to the 1985 National Championship game as a player. Hendrix returned as an assistant coach in 1988, the year in which the Paladins won their first and only National Championship.
Hendrix would continue to coach at Furman through 2007 until he was hired as the associate head coach at the Air Force Academy. He spent 10 years with “Air Force”, and was hired here in December 2016, replacing Bruce Fowler as Furman’s new head football coach.
In his time at Air Force, Hendrix believes he experienced major “football growth”. He hopes that he can take his experience coaching “high-character guys” at Air Force and apply it to the Paladin football team.
Coach Hendrix and the Paladins have lofty goals for this season, which includes growth off-the-field as well. One of the team’s goals is to set their own culture. Coach Hendrix truly believes this is possible and stresses, “We have good guys. I want our players to appreciate what they get in a degree at Furman and translate that to the field.”
Setting their own culture isn’t focused solely on the players either. Hendrix encourages his players to reach out to the student body and encourage them to fill Paladin Stadium again, as it was in his playing career in the 1980s. Hendrix hopes that the student body continues to come to the games, but now hopes that the product on the field can keep students in the stands.
On-the-field, Coach Hendrix brings the smash-mouth, old-school philosophy of “run and stop the run”. The Paladins will focus on strengthening both the offensive and defensive lines this year in order to fortify its running attack.
Leading the offensive line is senior center, Matthew Schmidt, while senior nose guard Jaylan Reid leads the D-Line. Schmidt and Reid were recently voted as captains by their teammates and are joined by senior QB P.J. Blazejowski and senior linebacker Dillion Woodruff.
Other notable players include senior running back Antonio Wilcox, who last season was just 37 yards short of running for 1,000 yards. Wilcox will most likely be joined in the backfield by tailback Darius Moorhead who rushed for 80 yards in last season’s debut at Michigan State before suffering a concussion the following week.
The new era of Paladin football under Clay Hendrix begins on Saturday, September 2 at 6 p.m. in the season opener in Spartanburg, SC against one of Furman’s oldest rivals, Wofford College.
Tight end Ajay Williams goes up for a catch in a preseason practice. Photo courtesy of Furman Athletics.