There are 20 teams with new head coaches in Class A this season. And of those, perhaps the most difficult task has been undertaken by the youngest head coach in the state.
Parker Conley turned 25 on Aug. 8, smack dab in the middle of preparing his Providence Christian Storm for their sixth season, their fourth playing a full Georgia High School Association varsity schedule. Already, Conley has led Providence to as many wins – one – as the program had produced in its first six seasons. The Storm’s 17-14 win over Riverside Military Academy on Sept. 1, was the first ever region victory.
And Conley has coaching pedigree in his favor. His grandfather, Bill Conley, was the architect of the program at Lovett, where he compiled a record of 96-49-5 in 14 seasons (1963-1976), winning two region titles and a state championship in 1970. The football field at Lovett is named partly in his honor.
But Parker Conley knows there is a lot of work to be done in order for the Storm to be a contender in Region 8, one of the most competitive leagues in Class A. The Norcross graduate who walked on as a punter at Florida State and was a part of the Seminoles’ 2013 national championship team, took time recently to talk about his building project in Lilburn.
Q: Why did you make the decision to become a football coach?
Conley: “I was an international affairs major at Florida State, and my career plan was to be in a field where I would interact with and deal with people, because I believe that is my strength. I was doing technology sales and coaching youth football at Johns Creek, when I realized that the only time I was happy was when I was coaching football and interacting with kids at church.”
Q: How did you end of getting the job at Providence Christian?
Conley: “Coach Ken Robinson (who started the program) brought me in to be an assistant and coach the middle school team. They considered me for the head coaching position I think because I understood the culture here, and I really feel blessed to have a combination of youth and experience. My age helps me relate to our players, because they see I was where they are not too long ago. They know I’ve been through what they’re experiencing. And I’ve had some great experiences. I was the scout team tight end and a punter at Florida State. We won a national championship (2013), and I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some great coaches, like Jimbo Fisher (Florida State). They said they wanted me here at Providence. My wife (Karly Fullem Conley) and I prayed a lot about it and we decided that this was where we needed to be. My wife played softball and basketball at Buford, played softball at Georgia Tech and now she coaches basketball and softball at Wesleyan. She knows a lot about winning, just as much as I do.”
Q: How have your veteran players taken to the difficulty of being the foundation of a new program?
Conley: “I’ve told them, if we focus on being the best we can be and work hard toward that, then that is good enough for me. These seniors were the middle school players on the original team here at Providence, and so they are a very special class. We’ve built a lot of trust with this group. They know we love them and will fight for them. Our seniors have been leading the way. They have been showing up for work with the right attitude, being a great example for our young players. They’ve fought through a lot of adversity, and they keep fighting.”
Q: Who are some of your key senior leaders?
Conley: “Mitchell Miller (RB/Slot/OLB), David Sloan (TE/MLB), James Berry (OL) and Josh Wright (OL), who is coming back from a knee injury last year. He was a great leader off the field last season.”
Q: How have your parents taken it?
Conley: “Our senior parents have been absolute rock stars. They’ve been leading the way with their support and encouragement. They have a lot of trust in us as a staff because they know we’re going to protect their kids and look out for them at all times, and put them in the best position to be successful.”
Q: What will be your approach with the team on the field?
Conley: “We’re going to fight. As long as there is time on the clock, we’re going to be a team that fights, and we’ve seen that already. We’re going to play smart, disciplined football. On defense we’re going to fly around and be physical, and on offense we’re going to spread things out and get our speed guys in space. Ken Aldridge is our defensive coordinator. He’s been coaching longer than I’ve been alive. Montrez Milner if our offensive coordinator. He played at UGA and in the NFL. I wanted to make sure I surrounded myself and our players with good, veteran coaches who can give our kids the best opportunity for success.”
Q: Where do you see the program going, realistically?
Conley: “We can be as good as anybody. Why not us? Our athletic complex, the Lamar Lussi Athletic Complex, is completed and it really shows our school’s commitment to sports and to football. The guys see we have our own space now. Our own locker rooms, meeting rooms and storage space. It shows them how much we care about sports and they are buying in. We competed in a lot of games last year. We just ran out of steam. We’ve looked at that, learned from it, prayed about it and we’re doing everything we can to get better as a team and as a program.”