Believing in excellence

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 12, 2010

For new Florala head football coach and athletic director Chris Buckler, building a championship program is something he believes can happen for the Wildcats.

“We have the chance and opportunity to be competitive,” Buckler said in a telephone interview. “Realistically, we need to be competing for regional championships in the next couple of years. It doesn’t need to be Brantley going to the state championship every year, it needs to be us as well.”

Building football programs for Buckler is something that isn’t new for him.

Before taking the helm at Florala, Buckler was the freshman football coach at John Carroll Catholic in Birmingham, and said he wanted to have the chance to have his own program.

“At John Carroll, I really kind of reached that point where I really wanted a chance to have my own program and build something,” he said. “I was looking for a program that needed to be built — not necessarily where they already are in a situation where they were going to the playoffs every year.

“I wanted an opportunity to come in and do that to a program,” he said. “Looking at the history of Florala, the people and the support staff there, it seemed like a perfect fit for my family and me.”

Buckler’s tenure in sports has taken him from being a football and track athlete at Miami University in Ohio to coaching under former Alabama head coach Mike Shula for two years at the Crimson Tide.

The Indiana native’s first coaching job was as a graduate assistant at Marquette University in Wisconsin from 2001-2004; and before being hired as an assistant under Shula, Buckler coached in North Carolina for two years.

At Marietta College, Buckler served as the junior varsity head coach and defensive line coach. He then moved to Indiana, where he served as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Perry Meridian High School before his stint at John Carroll.

Buckler said what really attracted him to Florala was the small town atmosphere it provides.

“As much as I love the city, and there are a lot of things to do, the people are different,” he said. “My wife (Ami) is expecting our first child, and I sat back and took a look and decided whether I wanted my child to be raised in a big city, or do I want them to have the same experience my wife and I had growing up in a small town in Indiana.”

When it’s all said and done, Buckler hopes that he can build a program the Florala community will be “proud” of.

“I am excited,” he said. “The biggest thing is getting everyone involved. It doesn’t matter who is the coach, if we don’t get everyone behind the program, it won’t be successful. It’s really about buying into the program. Once we have that, then I think it will be a program everyone will be proud of.”