After being officially approved by the Catawba County Schools Board of Education as the next football coach at Fred T. Foard on Monday night, Tom Harper had one goal in mind.
"Everybody kept telling me that you can't win at Foard," he said. "It made it more attractive for me to go there and make something out of what people thought was nothing."
Now, the new Tigers gridiron leader is hoping to instill a new philosophy and breathe life into the Foard football program.
There is one key message Harper wants to stress not only to his players at Foard, but also those involved in the school.
"My plan is to build a family that cares about each other and wants to go out and battle in the name of Fred T. Foard every Thursday and Friday night," he said. "I don't want them to get caught up in wins and losses right now. I want them to get caught up in battling every time they go out and competing every chance they get. If we can do that, get stronger in the weight room, start doing some things that will help us physically and come together as one unit and group, I think we'll be fine. All I'm asking from them is great effort and great attitude. We'll get everything else as we go along."
Harper is hoping to lead Foard to similar success that he experienced at his two previous coaching tenures with Alexander Central and Hickory.
During his combined six seasons with the Cougars (2007-11) and Red Tornadoes (2012), Harper's teams made the playoffs each season. His 2010 Alexander Central squad also won a conference championship.
Harper said his decision to leave Hickory after one season for the Foard coaching job wasn't personal.
"It's not anything that Hickory hasn't done. It's just not the right fit for me right now," he said. "It's better to get out now than to hold on and know it isn't the right fit. That is why I'm going to Foard. I am very excited about my new opportunity, but very thankful for my last opportunity."
As far as personnel is concerned, Harper hasn't decided the fate of five assistant coaches under former Tiger leader Jason Phelps, which includes Mike Auton, Mike Banther, Marcus Greer, Clifton Price and Samy Sheritah.
"My plan is to speak to every coach that coached on that staff last year and kind of get an idea of what they may be thinking and get a direction of what they thought the problems were, if any," Harper said. "We want to start moving in a positive direction to try to make it as good as we can make it."
Harper also said that nothing is set is stone as far as offensive and defensive strategies are concerned, as well.
"I'm not going to talk offense or defense right now because I don't know," he said. "In order to be able to know that, I have to be able to see personnel. I know what I like to do. That is what we'll try to do. If not, we'll adapt around the personnel."
Harper said his final day with the Hickory Public System is either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.
The new Foard coach now begins a new coaching journey, setting his sights on preparing his new team and the first game of his Tiger tenure, which will be against Maiden on Aug. 23.
"Everywhere I've ever been a head football coach, I've always been excited about the first game," he said. "Thankfully, every place I've ever worked there have been quality people that I've had the opportunity to work with and quality players I've been able to work with. I have no doubt that Fred T. Foard will be just as good, if not better."