— By Taylor Kennedy
Carl Lee recently became the 24th head football coach at South Charleston High School, allowing the former Minnesota Viking legend to guide the Black Eagles.
Lee replaces former head coach Donnie Mays, who announced he was accepting the same position at Hurricane last month.
The process did not start immediately for Lee, who explained how things went down.
“I do a radio show on Mondays, and Dave Weekley asked me if I was interested in the job, and I said no way,” Lee stated. “On another show, Woody Woods made the case that I should be the next coach. Roger Wright called me and said I should be the next coach. I kept getting calls from important people from the city, and the city has been good to me.”
Once Lee applied for the job, he felt a certain level of attachment to the position.
“As soon as I applied, I wanted it,” Lee noted. “I wanted it because of the people who wanted me to do it. When I found out that I was in the mix of the main candidates, I started reaching out to coaches that I wanted to join my staff. I started talking about Xs and Os. I am that nervous kind of guy that wants to get stuff going right away.
“I am committed to things that come to me that I have an opportunity to do.”
Lee’s football background could hardly be more appealing. Before becoming a standout in the NFL, he excelled at football and track and field at Marshall, and was later part of the 1995 Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame class.
Lee would play 11 seasons in the NFL, including 10 with the Vikings. He recorded 803 total tackles and 31 interceptions.
Lee was named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings and a Vikings 40th Anniversary team member. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro in 1988.
Now with a chance to lead the SCHS program, Lee is already feeling the community support, but knows he has to juggle moving pieces and won’t win everybody over.
“I am not a social media guy, but people screen-shotted stuff to me, and the reception seems to be going well,” Lee said. “What bothers me is there will always be people who do not like me. They do not know me, but they do not like me. Managing that piece of it, for me, is an interesting component. All I care about in this whole process is how many kids I can get off to college and how many kids I can get to be the best student-athlete they can be.”
Lee was previously a head coach at West Virginia State from 1996-2005. He sees things he did at the collegiate level that can apply at the prep ranks as well.
“College, I am getting young men prepared for life. It has no benefit to me other than the head coach, but I want to make sure they understand things about life.” Lee said. “High school, to me, is a true student-athlete that wants to get to college. How do we mold them in the idea that this could be the end of sports? Winning a state championship, for me, doesn’t help them. I will get the credit as the coach, but if they are not getting to college, then I lose.
“I want to make sure they understand everything to gain here, and I have nothing to lose. I want to make sure these young men get something.”
Lee is already looking at the core groups of returners for next year’s team. He likes where they are, but he sees defensive depth as an early issue.
“We are going to need players to play both ways,” Lee said. “There have been conversations about players not liking to play both ways, but that is not a choice. I am not sure who wouldn’t want to do that in high school, because it opens opportunities for you. One of our challenges is going to be trying to get players to play both ways so we can be the best team we can be.”
The 61-year-old Lee is looking at this stop as his last in coaching.
“It will probably conclude me as a football coach,” Lee noted. “I think this will be my last opportunity to be on the sidelines of a football team coaching. I may still be overseeing youth programs in South Charleston and being on the sidelines coaching, but I will not be calling plays. This is my last hurrah into having an opportunity to coach.”