Alabama Coach Leaves State Champion for Bigger Challenge


By Drew Champlin, FNF Coaches Correspondent
Coaching Profile: Keith Etheredge
Team: Pell City (AL)

Keith Etheredge coached his alma mater for 10 years and won four state championships, but felt over the offseason that it was time to make a change.

That’s why he left Leeds (AL), a class 4A power coming off back-to-back state championships, for nearby Pell City, a Class 6A program that’s been middle of the pack for the last few years. But Etheredge believes the pieces are in place for the school to succeed.

“The superintendent and principal are real good Christian men and they’ve got a supportive community,” said Etheredge, who is also the school’s athletic director. “They want to win.”

Etheredge’s first head coaching position was actually in basketball, which he did at Erwin High School (now Center Point) before coming to Leeds in 2004 as an assistant. In 2006, he took over as head coach.

“It just worked out,” Etheredge said. “I knew I wanted to be a head [football] coach eventually. I wasn’t going to apply here, but some other coaches on staff encouraged me to.”

He couldn’t pinpoint a best memory, but enjoyed coaching sons of his former classmates who were coming up through the ranks.

Etheredge said he can see his 13-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter thriving in the school system. On the field, he’ll take the same approach he used to turn Leeds into a power.

“Always be the hammer, never be the nail,” Etheredge said. “We always want to be the toughest team out there. We always want to outwork everybody. We say if you’re always the hammer and never the nail, you’re going to have a better chance to win because you’ll be the more physical team.”

Etheredge called Pell City the perfect fit and a place with good kids. The school is focused on winning, and it’s a place that he believes can win sooner than later, even if he marvels at a 51-person freshman class full of talent.

“There’s a lot of talent here,” Etheredge said. “It’s just getting them to believe in themselves and put in the work to do it.”

But the cherry on top for Pell City wasn’t getting a four-time state championship coach, he said. It was getting an exceptional math teacher.

“My wife took a job up here,” he said. “I was telling someone that I think it’ll be tougher for [Leeds] to lose my wife than me because she’s one of the best teachers around.”