Woodrow Lowe Jr. had spent little – if any – time on campus at North Side High School before interviewing in November for the head football coach position with the Indians.
“We might’ve come up here for a freshman game when I was at Bolivar, but that would’ve been it,” said Lowe, who was introduced as the next leaders for the Indians last week.
Lowe’s first meeting with the team in one of the school’s cafeterias had about 30 players present with about 20 more set to return to school next year, and that’s not counting incoming freshmen.
“Starting out with 50 players in winter workouts, that’s something new for me,” said Lowe, who’s built a reputation in the last decade for being a program builder.
He took over the program at Bolivar High School in 2014 and inherited a program with fewer than 30 players on its roster. By the time he left in 2018, the Tigers routinely had 100 players on their team each year.
After serving as an assistant coach at Lausanne High School in Memphis, Lowe spent the last three seasons as head coach at Fayette-Ware, leading the Wildcats to 19 victories in those three years and a playoff appearance. He also had fewer than 30 players starting out there with those numbers climbing to about 50 this year.
“So starting out with 50 players, I’m looking forward to that,” Lowe said. “I’ll still recruit the hallways like I did at Bolivar and Fayette-Ware, but it’s good to have a larger base of athletes to recruit to.”
Lowe has been in rural West Tennessee long enough to understand the potential the football program at North Side has. He moved to the area when former coach Tab Vowell was leading the Indians to unbeaten regular seasons and long playoff runs.
He’s watched from afar as Jesse Powell, Vowell’s successor, continued to keep the Indians competitive and win a couple of region championships.
But even more important to Lowe than the potential for success on the field is the potential for success in life for all the young men who will come through the program.
His meeting with the players included a Powerpoint presentation that informed the players about Lowe, his own history and the plans he has for the program and them.
“How many of you want to play college football?” Lowe asked before seemingly every player in the room lifted his hand. “Then we’re going to do what we need to do to get you ready for college, and I’ll tell you right now that it starts in the classroom.
“When I was coaching in Selma, Alabama, one year we had 20 players sign college scholarships. One year at Bolivar, we had five sign with colleges. We’ve got a couple of guys at Fayette-Ware that will sign. One of those guys ever had that opportunity if their grades and test scores weren’t good enough to get into college, so we’re making sure your grades are good enough before we really talk about anything on the field.”
Lowe touted not only the success of players at his former programs, but also the success of his two sons – Trey and Kyle – to get to the next level. Trey started this past season as a graduate student at Southern Mississippi as their quarterback. Kyle just finished his freshman season at Middle Tennessee State.
“My sons and all those other players that saw success, I want to help every one of you see that kind of success and hopefully start y’all to being successful in life, whatever you may choose to do,” Lowe said. “That’s why I went to Fayette-Ware. I wanted to help the young men there be successful, and that’s why I’m coming here.
“So I’ll officially be on staff here when we get back from Christmas break, and we’ll hit the ground running when classes start back.”
Brandon Shields, email@example.com