By Robert Wilson
Trusting. Organized. Calm. Dedicated. Offensive genius. Encourager.
These are some of the words used to describe new Jackson Prep head football coach Doug Goodwin.
And here’s another word to describe the Alabama native and longtime Alabama high school coach.
Goodwin – a member of the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame who won 234 games in his 27-year head coaching career in Alabama and was the first football coach in Alabama to take three different schools to state championship games – has won every game this season for Prep.
That’s the norm of the most successful football program in MAIS history, but not after last year’s 8-5 team, which was the most losses since the first year of the school in 1970. Tyler Turner resigned after one season.
Goodwin has turned things around in a hurry. So how did the 59-year-old former Auburn defensive back do it and how did he get to Prep?
“My first goal when I got on campus (in February) was to get to know our players and coaches on a personal basis,” Goodwin said. “Of course, with the players that happened faster for some than others because some were playing other sports and I wasn’t able to spend so much time with them. I was more concerned with the relationship aspect of building our team than the football aspect of it. I knew there would be plenty of time for the football part. My priority was to earn the trust of the players and coaches.
“I do think that I’m organized in the way that we run the program. I believe strongly in things having an order and there being a well-planned process to accomplishing your goals. Football is a situational game and people usually operate best in a structured environment within a routine. I want to cover all or most of the situations our team will see on a weekly basis. I don’t want them to have questions about what we will be working on a particular day. I want them to be prepared and to know what is expected of them.”
Goodwin was working at Ole Miss when he heard that there was an opening at Prep. Goodwin was a special teams analyst for the past two seasons at Ole Miss and held a variety of coaching positions, including director of high school relations, at Auburn from 2014-2019.
“One of our former assistant coaches who coaches in Mississippi now (Jim Crowder at Pillow Academy in Greenwood) told me about Jackson Prep,” Goodwin said. “He said that it was a great job and that I should look into it. I talked to a guy I worked at Ole Miss about it (director of football operations John Miller) since he had spent his entire career in football in Mississippi. He had great things to say about the school and program as well. I had heard of Jackson Prep in the past, mainly because they had won so many games and championships. Everyone I spoke to about the school and program had positive things to say. One thing led to another and here I am.”
The players have been impressed with Goodwin from the start.
“Coach Goodwin has shown us that football is bigger than a game, and that it is about life,” Prep senior linebacker Duncan Mathews said. “He has taught us that everyone on the football team has a role, and that role is very important. Ever since Coach Goodwin stepped on campus, he has made us feel like we are a part of his family. He makes us step out of our comfort zone because he is wanting us to get better every single day. Coach Goodwin’s work ethic, dedication and coaching of this football team has allowed us to be very successful early in the year.”
“Coach Goodwin is extremely calm and collected in all situations,” Prep senior quarterback Paxton Thompson said. “He is a great coach but a better man and has uplifted every player he comes in contact with on our team. Coach Goodwin is an offensive genius and the play calls he makes seem to always work. He is a big schematics guy, but his best quality is his trust in the players, and that means a lot to us.”
Jackson Prep athletic director Will Crosby is thankful Goodwin chose to come to Prep.
“What I’m grateful for the most about having Coach Goodwin at Prep is why he made the decision to leave college coaching to get back into high school,” Crosby said. “He felt like he could have more of an impact on young men’s lives at the high school level. And that is exactly what he is doing. We knew Doug is a fantastic coach who runs his program the right way. But his ability to immediately gain these players respect and admiration is what I’m most thankful for.”
Prep longtime defensive coordinator Nick Brewer sees a lot of the same outstanding qualities in Goodwin as he saw in former Prep coach Ricky Black, who Brewer worked with for 23 seasons. Black – a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and former National High School Coach of the Year – resigned two years ago. He had a 263-44 record (an 85.6 winning percentage) and won 13 state championships, including a record seven in a row (2012-2018) in 24 seasons. Black is the second winning high school football coach in Mississippi history with 401 victories.
“Coach Black and Coach Goodwin both let their assistants coach,” Brewer said. “They are both are even keel, they don’t get too high or too low. They both bond well with their players and their players play hard for them.”
Goodwin grew up in Sylacauga, Ala., and was a walk-on defensive back at Auburn under Pat Dye and graduated from Auburn in 1984. He was a head coach at five public schools in Alabama, four years at Russellville, eight at Demopolis, six at Lineville, six at Marion County and three at Homewood. He led Demopolis to an undefeated season and a state title and set a state record with 761 points in 2008. He also had four state runner-up finishes. Goodwin led his teams to the playoffs in 19 consecutive seasons from 1993-2010. He was named the Alabama Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 2008.
“My high school coach (Bill Rayburn) had a big influence on me,” Goodwin said. “He gave me the chance to start on the varsity as a sophomore, which not a lot of guys at my high school had been able to do. He believed in me and that has helped me to believe in my players over the years. He was tough, but he loved us, and we knew it. We didn’t want to let him down. Coach Dye had an influence on the coach I became. I learned how to work from him. The first high school coach I worked (Rusty Nichols) for also had an influence on me in that he gave me a chance to coach and was always positive with me. He made me believe that I was doing the great job, whether I was or not. He was a great motivator.”
Goodwin’s sons, Dusty and Devin, were outstanding athletes. Dusty was an All-State quarterback at Demopolis High and played quarterback at Auburn and North Alabama. Devin was also an All-State quarterback at Demopolis High, played quarterback at Delta State and was an All-American shortstop for DSU. He played six years in the minor leagues in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Dusty is now an assistant football coach at Thompson High in Alabaster. Devin works in logistics in Birmingham.
Goodwin and his wife, Donna, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary Sept. 4. They have seven grandchildren. Dusty and his wife, Sara K, have four boys (Whit, Colt, Grant and Jeff). Devin and his wife, Brittany, have two boys (Aiden and Jackson) and one girl (Paisley).
Goodwin and Prep face their biggest challenge of the season Friday night when they visit three-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy. MRA has won 15 straight games against MAIS competition and 46 of its last 47 against MAIS teams. Also, MRA has defeated Prep the last four meetings and scored 48, 50 and 50 points (the most a Prep team has allowed in school history) in the last three games.
“MRA has a great team that is extremely well coached,” Goodwin said. “They are the three-time defending state champion. They have to be the favorite until someone beats them.”
Goodwin has his team playing with a lot of confidence.
“I’m not surprised by the success we’ve been able to have to this point,” Goodwin said. “We have great assistant coaches who had been a part of many wins before I got here, and we have good players who were hungry for direction and to be successful.”