Butler looks for Heritage to raise level of play


Adam Minichino



Brad Butler has coached at enough levels to know football is football. 


Through the differences in size, strength and speed. Butler has seen in his time coaching in high school and in college and at the professional level that football is basically the same. 


The objective for all coaches is to find a way to get the maximum effort and focus from their players every day so they can give their best effort on game day. 


The latest challenge for Butler and his Heritage Academy football team will come at 7 tonight at Starkville Academy. The Patriots (1-1) are coming off a 22-21 loss to Winston Academy, while the Volunteers (0-2) lost to Lamar School 21-20. 


So far, Butler has been pleased with his team''s performance, but he knows the Patriots will have to play at a different level the rest of the way if they want to realize their playoff dreams. 


"I hope they believe in me and trust in me enough that I am going to take care of them that when it is time to battle, it is time to battle and let''s take the gloves off and let''s get it," said Butler, who is in his second season as head coach at the school. 


Butler served as an assistant coach to Lee Davis before Davis resigned after the 2008 season. He also has worked as a graduate assistant coach at Mississippi State from 2006-07 and a strength coach for the Arena Football League''s Dallas Desperados from February-July 2008. He also worked as an offensive and defensive line coach at Starkville Academy, his alma mater, from 1998-2004. He learned a lot about the game at each level and in his years playing for his father, David, a former coach at Starkville, Winston, and Central academies. 


Brad Butler said times have changed from when his father was a coach. Back then, he said coaches could be tougher on players and could use different methods to gain respect. He said his father took a "gloves off" approach all of the time, which helped his players meet his expectations. 


Today, he said coaches do things a little differently because expectations and circumstances have changed. His goal is to make sure players have their "gloves off" in time for Friday night''s game. During the week, he hopes he and his assistant coaches are saying and doing the right things to get the players to perform up to their potential. 


That was a problem last season. Following a 3-0 start, the Patriots didn''t win again and allowed losses to Lamar School and to Madison-Ridgeland Academy to send the season in the wrong direction. 


Last week, Winston Academy used a two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter to rally for a victory. Butler said his team hasn''t discussed the one-point loss, and he hopes his team has done enough in practice this week to put the loss behind it and re-focus. He also hopes he and his assistant coaches have said the right things to get the players ready. 


Butler said he and his coaches try to be involved with their players on and off the field to develop a trusting and caring relationship. He said it is crucial for players to feel their coaches don''t see them only as football players. If that is the case, he said players usually will be more willing to do what is asked and to try to exceed what they believe they can do. 


Butler said his father''s teams always played harder than the opponent, and he believes the Patriots will have to do more than what is expected if they are going to get back to the postseason. 


"Every single one of his teams played harder than everybody else, and that goes back to the belief his players had in him," Butler said. "He expected them to play harder than everybody else. Hopefully we will get to the point when we play somebody they dread playing us because they know we''re going to play harder than anybody else. I feel our kids are playing hard right now, and I told them we can''t play with average effort because we''re not bigger than anybody. We have to play with extreme effort." 


Butler feels his team showed some of that mind-set this week in practice. He said he liked the "aura" in training sessions and that his players up front were "getting after it." He said the key from here on out will be how his players respond from adversity and if they are willing to take the gloves off and respond when challenged. That sentiment hasn''t changed much from generation from generation. 


"Some of the ways are different, but it all comes down to the same thing: Getting the kids to play hard and knowing which buttons to push and making them feel good about themselves individually and as a team to have success and to build," Butler said. "It has been that way since (former University of Alabama great Paul) "Bear" Bryant has been coach. The message has changed a little bit, but the bottom line is the same: If you''re playing harder than the other you have a chance every week." 



Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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