Former Blue Flame standout Boggs picked to lead program

Courtesy The Journal

Former Pickens High School football standout John Boggs, pictured here during his final season at Walhalla High in 2011, was announced Monday as the new head coach of his alma mater. Boggs served as an assistant coach for the Blue Flame last season

By Zack Mauldin

PICKENS — Like many others his age who grew up in Pickens in the 1970s and 1980s, John Boggs remembers attending games at Bruce Field as a boy, watching legendary coach Bill Isaacs lead the Blue Flame through one of the greatest stretches in program history.

Now Boggs, a Pickens High School graduate, has his own chance to lead the next generation of Blue Flame to glory.

Boggs was announced Monday as the new head coach of the Pickens football program, bringing his career full-circle.

“My love for football began sitting in the stands watching Pickens High School football games with my grandparents,” Boggs said Monday evening. “That’s something I’ve always felt was very special, and I’ve always felt that Pickens High football is very special to me, and I know what it is to this community and how important it is.

“We want to build something that can give them a sense of pride and something they can be proud of.”

Pickens principal Marion Lawson said he has high expectations for Boggs, who graduated with honors from the school in 1991 and has served as a math teacher there since August.

“”We expect coach Boggs to bring a toughness and grit to the Blue Flame football program, while emphasizing integrity, character, and excellence,” Lawson said.

A three-year letterman at center for Isaacs, Boggs earned All-State honors and an invitation to the Shrine Bowl in 1990 before going on to play at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Boggs, a former head coach at Walhalla and Westside, served as an assistant last season under his predecessor, Chad Seaborn, who resigned the post after the Blue Flame finished 3-8 in his sixth season last year, including a first-round playoff loss at Western AAA champion Wren.

Last season was also marred by off-the-field turmoil for Pickens, as an assistant coach was arrested on multiple charges, including sexual battery with a student and contributing to the delinquency of minors, and several players faced disciplinary measures for conduct issues.

“This is in no way, shape or form a reflection on the man I’m replacing, because I don’t know that there’s a better man on the face of the Earth than Chad Seaborn, but some people within our program have tarnished the image of the torch and have kind of damaged our reputation — not only in our community, but around our area,” Boggs said. “For me, it’s all about restoring pride in the Blue. That was something that we always had ingrained in our minds from the time we started playing as rec players to the time we were in high school — there’s a pride in the Blue that everybody in Pickens and everybody in this community should have.”

Boggs said restoring that pride and success on the field will go hand-in-hand.

“We need to go out there and make sure we’re putting our best effort forward not only on the field but off the field, in the classroom,” he said. “We need to be winners in everything we do, and if we start taking that approach, I think the winning will take care of itself.”

Having a deep appreciation for the history of Pickens football will help as well, Boggs said.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure we understand a lot of people have worn that torch on the side of their helmet before us and a lot of people take pride in the torch and in Pickens High School,” he said. “We’re a part of something that’s a lot bigger than us, and in order to restore that pride that we want to have, everybody has to pulling in the same direction and have the same mindset, and that’s my job — to have that one vision and get everybody on the same page.”

According to Boggs, getting involved in football at its earliest levels in the community will also lead to greater things in the future.

“We look forward to not just focusing on this varsity football team, but focusing on football as a whole in the city of Pickens and the community of Dacusville and trying to make football a vehicle to greater things, not just as far as playing, but in teaching kids lessons in life,” he said. “That starts in the earliest stages of when they start playing, and I want to be an active part of all of that.”

Boggs said the response he received after the school announced his hiring Monday was overwhelming.

“My phone has been blowing up all afternoon with phone calls, emails, texts and things from friends, people in the community, family and coaches around the state that I’ve become good friends with,” he said. “It’s pretty humbling when you receive those kinds of nice compliments from people. At the same time, we haven’t won our first ballgame yet, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“It’s time to put our nose to the grindstone and start getting after it and getting these kids ready for next season.”