HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: Windham will take over as Straughn head football coach

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Garrett Windham will return to his roots and make his head football coaching debut in the 2024 season at a place he knows well: his alma mater Straughn High School.

Garrett Windham is a 2004 Straughn High School alumnus. After a 16-year career as an assistant coach, he will make his debut as a head coach in the fall of 2024. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER LINDSEY)

A 2004 SHS alumnus, Windham previously served as an assistant coach for 16 years. His career began at Red Bank High School in Tennessee in 2008 before he returned home to SHS in 2012. He moved to Andalusia High School from 2015 through 2023 and helped the Bulldogs win the 4A state championship game at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2022. He succeeds former coach Ashley Kilcrease who retired at the end of November and begins his new role in January.

“From a professional standpoint, I felt it was time to take that next step as a football coach. Every coach dreams of becoming a head coach. It just so happened that the Lord had opened a door for me to come back to Straughn, and He made it clear it was time for me to take that leap and put my name in the mix. Straughn School is definitely the heartbeat of this community, and that makes it so special,” Windham said.

He was an offensive lineman for the Tigers from 2000 through 2003 and also played for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga from 2004 to 2007. He was named Second Team All-Southern Conference in 2007 and graduated from UTC in 2009 with bachelor’s degrees in Health and Human Performance and Physical Education K-12.

“Because I am familiar with the school and community, I am most excited about getting plugged in and being a member of this awesome community once again. People who have not experienced the spirit and passion of the Straughn community do not understand why it is such a special place. You don’t get to experience that at a lot of other schools across the state. I’m excited to get to interact with these young men on a daily basis. I believe that, as a coach, it is my responsibility not just to come in and win games, which is important, but also to develop these young men into high-character, well-rounded members of society. Games will be won and lost, but your greatest win as a coach is having a lasting, positive impact on your players after they depart.”

This opportunity means a lot to Windham who attended Straughn from kindergarten through the twelfth grade.

“I’m grateful for God opening this door. I am grateful to the Covington County School Board and the Straughn administration for entrusting me to carry this role. This school molded me into the person I am today, and I felt like it was time to pay it back. My family has had the honor to serve at this school for years, and it means a lot for me to be able to do the same. Go Tigers! I can’t wait to hear the jugs in full force,” he said.

He feels coaches need to be genuine and show players they truly care for their well-being no matter what position they serve.

“Kids can detect if your words are empty. As the head coach, developing trust among the team that you have the players’ best interests in mind will yield benefits far beyond wins and losses. I have had the privilege to work under Hall of Fame coach Trent Taylor for many years and have seen the way you’re supposed to treat kids and how to manage day-to-day operations. At the end of the day, you need to have the football knowledge, but you also need to have the skills to build positive relationships with your players.”

Windham stated the transition has been smooth for him and his family.

“The Straughn community is so special. The way they rally support around their kids, families, and employees is hard to find nowadays. There are few places like this left in the world. They have been welcoming to my wife and kids who both work at and attend Straughn Elementary,” he said.

According to him, his coaching philosophy will resemble past years.

“Coach Kilcrease and his staff did a tremendous job of rebuilding a culture that seemed to have been lost. The same principles of faith, hard work, and integrity will be the core values we build around. The objective is to create high-character young men who also play with tremendous passion and effort on the field of play. There will be a standard to which we uphold each day. To develop them into a well-rounded student-athlete is the ultimate goal.”

Windham plans to meet with the current coaching staff one-on-one. Another one of his goals is to instill the same passion he had from his playing time at Straughn.

“Their production and caliber already speak volumes based on their tenure here at Straughn. We will go from there and put together a staff that will be great coaches and great influences for our boys. Our goals are to obviously be successful and not just wins and losses. That’s a given. You want to see these guys graduate high school at a high percentage and be able to obtain careers after they leave Straughn. The football will take care of itself based on the coaches on staff and the motivation of the players. I want Straughn football and Straughn School to mean as much to these kids when they leave as it does to me.”

He paid tribute to the man upstairs and his fellow peers on the sideline.

“Most importantly, I would like to thank God. Without Him, none of this would be possible. I want to thank my wife, who is the best in the world, and I want to thank the Covington County BOE, the SHS administration, and the supportive community we have at Straughn. I want to thank some of the great coaches I’ve been blessed to coach under and work alongside. They have prepared me for this opportunity undoubtedly,” Windham said.

He outlined several reasons for what it means to be a Straughn Tiger.

“It’s what I came from. It’s all I know. No matter where I was in my coaching journey and no matter what school colors I was wearing, I still had my black and gold underneath. I attribute a lot of who I am today to the impact that Straughn had on me all those years.”

Windham feels his faith has gotten him to this point in his life.

“I think the game of football allows you to learn life lessons in discipline, perseverance, and servanthood, among others, just like you would when practicing your faith. In ways, they go hand in hand and should be taught that way. I think learning these principles, especially in today’s society, are vital to the next generation of young men,” he said.

He is the son of Julie and the late Greg Windham with one brother, Griffin. He is married to his wife, Samantha Windham, who is a second-grade teacher at Straughn Elementary School. They are the parents of two boys: Evan, 8, and Andy, 3.

“I am so very thankful for Coach Kilcrease and the job he did, what he has meant for our football program, and most importantly for the example he has set for our young men. We are grateful to have had him at Straughn, and he’ll be greatly missed. With that said, I am excited about Coach Windham taking over as our next head coach. He is a Straughn graduate and loves our school and community and is committed to continuing to lead our students and our football program in the right direction. I look forward to what the future holds for Straughn football under Coach Windham’s leadership,” said SHS Principal Matt Cobb.