ND Football

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2009

North Delta tabs former college coach to lead high school football program

By Myra Bean

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Changes instituted at North Delta for the upcoming year include a new football coach and a new district in which to play.

Following the sudden death of his wife, former Ole Miss offensive coordinator (2006-07) Dan Werner has accepted the position as head football coach of the North Delta football team for the upcoming year.

His first official date is Monday, February 23. A pep rally will be held Friday, February 20 at 2:30 p.m. at North Delta to introduce Werner as the new head coach to the school and the public is welcome.

Werner is the third coach in three years. Lance Thomas stepped down as coach after one year as its head. He will be leaving the school as of June 30.

“Coach Thomas is interviewing with some strong schools,” Howell said. “In my opinion, he could experience success as a coach or as an administrator. I have enjoyed my association with him.”

North Delta headmaster John Howell Jr. said stability at the school has been his goal.

“Probably one of our school’s biggest challenges and biggest goals has been to establish stability in our leadership. With Susan Lewis as Dean of Academics, Elizabeth Dean as Director of Finance, and Phil Douglas as AD, it is evident that we assembled an outstanding group of school leaders. Based on our conversations, I am confident that Coach Werner will be the solution to the problem of instability in football.”

Kim Werner died in her sleep February 5 at her home in Oxford, leaving her husband, daughter Maya 10 and son Ian, 5. The Werners met while Dan was an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech in 1993-94.

Not wanting to uproot the children so soon after losing their mother, Werner decided to withdraw as offensive coordinator of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La. Werner just accepted the position last month.

College coaches are on the road all the time, according to Werner, and if he had kept the job at Northwestern State, he would have had to hire a nanny and he did not want that to happen.

Northwestern State head football coach Bradley Dale Peveto said in a news release, “We’ll miss him being part of our program, but we’re thankful that this is working out for the best for them.”

Werner said the main reason he made the change was the change in his family situation.

“I wanted my kids to be able to stay in Oxford for the time being and keep things as normal as possible for them so they can stay in the same house, go to the same school and have the same friends,” he said. “People in Oxford have been great with everything that has happened in the last two weeks.”

When Werner found out about the North Delta job, he thought it was something he could do, logistically.

“My goals have gone from moving all over the country like I’ve done in my past to staying in one place and being in a more family situation,” Werner said. “I think this school is a family situation that will be good for my family and that is my ultimate reason.”

Long-term coaches are goals of the football program at North Delta.

“All of our discussion has centered on the long-term work of building a football program. As Coach Werner’s recent experience attests, one never knows what could happen today to any of us. However, all parties are making long-term decisions and this is what Coach Werner’s program will reflect.”

His father was a high school coach and Werner likes coaching high school because kids are willing to learn when he walks in, he said.

“Not that college players aren’t but there are lots of other things going on behind the scenes in college.

“I think this young group of kids will be eager to get started,” Werner continued. “I know I am, too, and I think it’s going to be fun.”

After the Mississippi Private School Association went through realignment, North Delta moved back to District 1-2A where opponents will be Kirk Academy, Indianola Academy, Marshall Academy and West Memphis Christian School.

Lee, Ark. moved to 1-1A where North Delta and West Memphis were previously. After alignment, 1-1A has only five teams.

Class 3A still has only 14 teams and north and south are divided into two divisions. Magnolia Heights of Senatobia is in 3A-Division 2.

This division North Delta finds itself has always been tough. Kirk is the state runner-up from last year.

Werner, 50, said he looks forward to the challenge the team has in the new district.

“Our school growth has led us to be moved to a larger athletic classification, which brings some challenges in football,” Howell said. “For me, it is nice to have someone in charge of preparing for this challenge who has faced huge challenges and found success at such places at the University of Miami.

“This is also a great opportunity for our assistant coaches,” Howell continued. “Coach Brad Wilson and Coach Hayden Sullivant will have the opportunity to work under a coach who has an amazing level of experience. I mean, the man has worked under legends like Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson, so, obviously, we are all excited about the leadership and experience he brings to our school.”

Werner has 27 years under his belt as a college coach with three national championships with the Miami Hurricanes and worked under coaches Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Larry Coker, including 10 years with the University of Miami.

Though his resume reads that of a very experienced college coach, he got his start as a high school coach.

Werner began his college coaching career in 1986 as an assistant at Cornell University. Prior to going to Cornell, Werner coached five seasons on the high school level. His first full-time job came in 1983 at Tarpon Springs High School as the junior varsity defensive coordinator.

Werner was considered one of the brightest offensive minds in college football, according to the University of Miami website and boasted impressive credentials as one of the foremost developers of college quarterbacks.

Werner graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor of arts degree in education in 1983. A native of St. Louis, Mo., he attended Parkway Central High School.

“The North Delta family is excited about Coach Werner joining our faculty,” Howell said. “Coach Werner has described the development as a ‘Godsend’ in his life and career because it allows him to have a great place to use his talents while at the same time be very involved in his children’s lives. I see him coming on board as an answer to prayer.

“The position of high school coach is one of the most influential platforms in our society,” Howell continued. “The input the coach has in a teen’s life is beyond compare. The fact that Coach Werner knows intimately about what life is like for college students and college athletes makes him a very credible part of a college preparatory school faculty.”