Most teenagers go to Rock Hill's Hargett Park to play sports, not to coach them. That wasn't the case for Johnny Kline, who was already coaching teams at an age when almost none of his peers were.
Kline was named the new head football coach at McBee High School last week. Given his early start in the profession, it's not surprising that the 25-year-old Rock Hill native is one of the youngest high school football head coaches in South Carolina, if not the youngest.
“I helped my dad coach some rec baseball teams at Hargett Park,” Kline said. “The whole time I knew that was my future. I knew that I was going to be a coach. Head coaching has always been a dream of mine.”
Kline replaces Charlie Poole, who retired earlier this year. Poole built the Panthers into a competitive 1A program after many decades of struggle. McBee won at least 10 games in a row from 2014 to 2016, before winning two last fall. Kline makes the short move to McBee from Pageland’s Central High School, where he coached the varsity team's offensive linemen and was junior varsity head coach.
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Kline played at Rock Hill High under coach Joe Montgomery. He was part of the Bearcats’ 2009 team that went undefeated during the regular season. Kline, an offensive lineman, then played college football at Newberry. Montgomery and Newberry coach Todd Knight’s compassion influenced Kline as a person, and now as a varsity football head coach.
“I was more than just a football player. The fact that they cared for me outside of the game impacted my life in that way," said Kline. "I want to have that same impact with my guys.”
Kline lives in Pageland but will move to McBee this summer. He will decorate his new office with important keepsakes.
“I’m sure I’ll have a Newberry flag hanging,” Kline said. “I’ll mostly have quotes that coaches have given me and told me over the years. I’m sure there will be tough days, I’ll just write myself little notes to get through it and remember what I’ve been told in the past.”
As young as he is, Kline expects to connect well with his teenaged players. He knows that’s important from his time with Montgomery and Knight.
“There’s more to life than football,” said Kline. “We want to win, but show them that’s not the only thing. We’re going to put them to work to win and take pride in the process of winning and the work to get to the top.”