WHITMIRE — Charlie Jenkins remembers the glory days of Whitmire High School football, and as the school’s newest football coach, his goals are teaching players about the proud heritage of Wolverines football and restoring a winning tradition to the program.
Though Jenkins attended Union County schools, he pulled for the Wolverines as his father, John, a proud 1962 WHS graduate, often took him to Whitmire games.
He saw running back Jerry Vanlue and watched the 1978 state champions and 1979 state runner-up WHS teams.
“Jerry Vanlue was my hero (when I was growing up),” he said.
Vanlue held state records in rushing and scoring that have since been broken, yet only four of the current Wolverines players raised their hands as having heard of him when Jenkins asked.
That fact will change if he has his way.
Jenkins wants to strengthen the connection to the past and players such as former Pittsburgh Steeler Donnie Shell and coaches like legendary coach Irby Raines while building his team for the future.
Times have changed, so he does not envision serving up hot hamburger plates (cheeseburgers and fries smothered in milk gravy that Raines’ players ate) to bulk up his players.
Instead, his master plan includes winning 365 days of the year — not just on game days.
Winning day by day
Jenkins said his players have 351 “other” days to win, and wins come while weightlifting, taking team trips, during team bonding, and working on leadership.
As an assistant coach at Mid-Carolina the past two seasons, he kept tabs on Wolverine football, as did the rest of the coaching staff.
“From what I saw, they played hard (last season). This program is four years without a win but they gave good effort at the end of the year,” he said. “I’m impressed with their desire to stay after it. Sometimes it’s hard to hold a team together when things are not going right but they did things the right way and kept up a positive vibe.”
Jenkins said that foundation says a lot about his returning players and returning coaches. He lost around five seniors from last year’s squad of 30-33 players and he expects his numbers to be similar this season.
He hopes to build new relationships with student-athletes and might even entice a few who might be hesitant about lacing up cleats and putting on pads to give football a try.
Numbers aside, the key, he realizes, is matching his scheme with the talent in the program in any given year.
While not revealing many X’s and O’s yet, he said there will be wrinkles to keep the maximum number of players involved in the outcome of each game, whether that means players playing both ways or cross training at multiple positions.
Small wins, big victories
First, the team will work for small wins in practice and in the weight room. Small wins are important for a program that has not won a game in four seasons.
“It doesn’t matter who (we hire),” Coach Joey Haney said. “The players must invest 120 percent into the program and we believe with Jenkins’ energy and guidance the players will do just that.”
Jenkins said his time at Saluda High School and Mid-Carolina helped acclimate him to challenges of coaching at smaller schools.
“Our goal is to be as efficient as possible with our workouts. But when we do workouts and team activities they will be mandatory and players will be held accountable for being there,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he’s learned a lot in his 22 years of coaching, including getting his start under legend Shell Dula at Union High.
Other mentors include Mike Anthony, Tommy Bobo, former Whitmire Head Coach Louie Alexander and Wayne Ball, who gave him opportunity to be a coordinator at Saluda High School among others.
While being respectful of former coaching staffs and programs, Jenkins looks forward to putting his stamp on the Whitmire program.
Jenkins takes over the reins from Donald Addis, who steps aside as football coach but remains as the school’s director of athletics.
Addis says the change allows him to devote all his passion for Wolverine athletics as a being a full-time athletic director.
“One way (having extra time to devote to administration helps) is how Whitmire competes in Region 2A for football but in all other sports, Whitmire competes in Region 1A since many charter schools around Greenville don’t have football teams, so that is one reason for the split schedule. That schedule multiplies my responsibilities, making this transition a good fit,” Addis said.
Addis will also have more time to work with the S.C. Athletic Coaches Association where he serves as second vice president.
“It’s a good time to have fresh ideas to revive the program and get it back to its winning ways,” Addis said. “Coach Haney and his staff did an excellent job with this hire and we are excited to have (Coach Jenkins) on board.”