For the second time in three months, a high school football coaching legend and future hall of famer was introduced as a member of Legion Collegiate Academy’s staff in the long, narrow room at the school’s temporary office off Ebenezer Road.
In January, former South Pointe head coach Strait Herron, who led the Stallions to five state titles in eight years, including four straight in one stretch, was unveiled at a press conference as the school’s first athletic director and head football coach.
And on Thursday night at a parents’ meeting in the same jam-packed gathering space, Herron announced the first addition to his staff, another former South Pointe head coach and state title winner: Bobby Carroll.
If Rock Hill’s newest charter school is trying to assemble a high school football coaching Dream Team, well, it’s off to a decent start.
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Carroll came on the market in December when he announced that Feb. 15, 2019 would be his last day at York Comprehensive, his alma mater and employer as head football coach from 2011 to 2018. Carroll took the Cougars to the 2014 4A Division II state final and won 71 games during his time in charge at the school.
He first gained statewide notoriety by launching South Pointe’s program, which played its first varsity football in 2006. By 2008, the school had won a state title, a 15-0 season spurred by a roster that included three future NFL players -- DeVonte Holloman, Stephon Gilmore and Jadeveon Clowney -- and had Herron as defensive coordinator. Holloman was recently named Herron’s replacement as head coach at South Pointe.
Carroll and Herron were at the Founder’s Leadership Conference in Charlotte in February, 2018 when they first talked about the possibility of coaching together at Legion. Herron didn’t want to talk about the Legion job before his final season at South Pointe was finished, but he did ask Carroll his opinion about the possibility. Herron doesn’t remember much about his conversation with Carroll, but one thing sticks out.
“The only thing I remember him saying is, ‘if you do that, then I’m in.’”
There may have been a storyline out there in the high school football ether that Herron and Carroll didn’t get along. Not true, they both said Friday morning.
Carroll coached Herron as a teenager at Northwestern. The two worked together on Jimmy Wallace’s staff, where Carroll was defensive coordinator for 22 years and helped the Trojans to state titles in 1989 and 1993. Herron was one of Carroll’s first hires when he took the head job at South Pointe.
“I haven’t said this a lot in my life and I probably should have, but the success we had at South Pointe was because of dudes like him,” Carroll said, pointing across the table to Herron. “Many days when I pulled out of South Pointe High School at 4’o’clock, them dudes were still there working. And probably again on Sunday.
“Well, I’m gonna go about this just like he went about helping us build South Pointe.”
Hiring Carroll, who was assistant AD at Northwestern for six years, will take a lot of logistics -- painting the game field, pregame meal, finding bus drivers, the list is endless -- off of Herron’s plate. Carroll has already been put in charge of assembling the 2019 schedule, which has proven difficult since most schools are in the middle of two-year game contracts and it’s not a realignment year. Carroll said he has seven games so far, including one against Aynor.
Legion Collegiate’s arrival on the York County educational scene promised to mix things up and Carroll’s hiring certain qualifies.
The school is transparent about its focus on athletics, an effort served in part by its unusual school day set-up. Students go to school during the morning or afternoon session, with the opposite session spent in practice with their school sports team. Another focus is piling up college credits before high school ends, something the school hopes will help offset rising higher education costs and prepare its students for the future.
Legion plans to cap its enrollment at 600 students and will join the South Carolina High School League. The school will likely join the 3A classification ranks in 2020.
Not everyone in York County has welcomed the new school with open arms. Many are worried about its potential impact on the local high school sports scene, especially in the first year when the school doesn’t have to comply with SCHSL transfer rules.
“I’ve hired some people and I’ve told them, and I told coach Carroll this too, we’re gonna be the most hated people in South Carolina,” said Herron. “It’s like what coach Carroll said, when we were at South Pointe we were the most hated people there, too.”
The reason was simple, according to Legion’s new defensive coordinator.
“Because we won all the time,” he said.