New Walker Valley offensive line coach Davis Shonts, left talks with fellow assistant Joe Shamblin before the Mustangs's scrimmage with Knoxville Catholic Friday, at Charleston Field. (Banner Photo, Richard Roberts)
A call just before the 2014 Christmas break changed the life of new Walker Valley line coach David Shonts and perhaps will help change the destiny of the up and coming Mustangs.
After 13 years in the college coaching ranks — three years at his alma mater Rhodes College and 10 years at LaGrange College (LaGrange, Ga.), where he served as quarterbacks coach, tight ends coach, offensive coordinator, plus strength and conditioning coach — Shonts suddenly found himself in the high school ranks where he has spent his first week becoming acclimated to his new team and new surroundings.
“Coach (Glen) Ryan gave me a call and asked me if it (the job) might be something I was interested in. I came up here and visited, and we have been on the phone back and forth. Things happened to work out at the last minute. We got finished moving in about midnight Sunday, and I was at the board of education Monday at about 7 a.m. getting paperwork signed.”
Ryan and Shonts became acquainted at LaGrange, where Ryan’s son, Craig, played football for the Panthers.
“Over the four years my son was at LaGrange, I developed a good relationship with Coach Shonts. I heard there was a possibility he might be interested in getting back a little closer to home and family, so I called him up. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and we were able to get it worked out,” said the elder Ryan.
“We’re excited to have him and excited about what he brings to the table. Our kids are going to be the ones who benefit from his experience.”
Shonts graduated from Beech High School in Hendersonville, then lived overseas for about a year before coming back to the States, where he “made a whole lot of money and hated it” before moving into a career in coaching.
“I’ve been poor and happy since then,” he said
Shonts and wife Cindy have two children, 8-year-old Jack and 5-year-old Lilly.
So far, the job has been less about Xs and Os and more about settling in, although he said the transition has not been a particularly stressful one as far as getting to know the team.
“I love it so far. I’m going to like it here. My family already loves it here. There are a lot of people who pay good money for a view like this, and we are out here enjoying it,” he said.
“It’s a team in transition. It’s a team headed in the right direction. Coach Ryan has done a great job everywhere he has been. I had the pleasure of coaching his son (Craig) when he played for us at LaGrange. I’ve known him (Glen Ryan) for quite a few years. He’s an excellent coach and a better man. I’m expecting some really good things here.”
Ryan said he has no doubts about Shonts as a coach and has been pleased with the progress he has seen so far in his offensive line.
“He’s gung-ho. Already in the few days he has been with us, he’s gotten in there, rolled his sleeves up and gone to work with our offensive line. We already are seeing some big strides they are making,” he said.
As far as making the conversion form college to high school football, Shonts said basically football is football, and the game is played not only between the lines but between the ears as well.
“Football is still football. At the end of the day it’s about what Vince Lombardi said about the game, football is about blocking and tackling,” he said.
“I’ve had three practices (as of Wednesday) with them so far. But they are a good group of guys. The offensive linemen are typically a good group of people. It’s a thankless job. It’s a thankless position. One of the beautiful things I like about the big guys is you don’t have a lot of attitudes you have to deal with. You just have blue collar guys who like to work.”
Ryan said he has no doubt Shonts will bring his best to the program and will get the best from his group of young Mustangs.
“I expect him to bring his ‘A’ game to the table. I know he is going to do that. I know he is going to get the most out of the players that are playing on the offensive line. That’s all we ask for in coaches is to coach these kids up and get their very best out of them,” he said. “If we can do that, then we have a chance.”
Shonts said his expectations are simple and if those expectations are met, his move from the college to the high school level will be well worth the trouble.
“I tell them every day, ‘My expectation is your best.’ That’s the beginning and end of my expectations,” he said.
“I’m excited and happy to be here. It’s been a whirlwind of a trip so far with the timetable Coach Ryan and I have been working on to get me here, but I’m loving it.”