February 24, 2003
"Ladies and gentlemen, I would like for you to welcome to Winnersville U.S.A. the thirteenth coach of Valdosta High School, Coach Rick Darlington." And with that announcement by Superintendent Sam Allen the Rick Darlington era began at Valdosta High School.
"I came up and I talked with the people and it seemed to be a good fit and one thing led to another and here I am," new Valdosta head football coach and athletic director Rick Darlington said.
Darlington comes to Valdosta from Apopka High in central Florida, where he amassed an overall record of 37 wins,11 losses, and one six-A state championship in just four years. But perhaps the biggest selling point to the selection committee that unanimously voted for Darlington, was his similarities on and off the field to another Valdosta head coach.
"He has so many characteristics of Coach (Nick) Hyder that it wasn't even funny," Roy Mitchell, a selection committee member, said. "He really talks the talk that Coach Hyder did. And I really think it's sincere," Touchdown Club Treasurer David Waller said.
And the city of Winnersville certainly wasted no time in making their new head coach feel welcome. He was presented with the key to the city, posed for pictures, and shook the hands of his future players. "I'll tell you this, there's no place like Valdosta. I sure appreciate that welcome," Darlington said.
And while some may see the attention as added pressure, Darlington disagrees. In fact, he plans on using the schools 802 wins and 23 state championships in his favor. "That's a tool, that's an ally. That doesn't need to be something that's a bad thing or intimidating. That's a great thing because no one else has that," added Darlington.
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