When he played running back in Pop Warner football at eight years old, Kyle Coats often left his father shaking his head.
Instead of running into open space, one of the first things a running back learns, Coats ran towards people.
“My love of hitting people is what has always drawn me to soccer,” Coats said.
Coats fondly recalls a time when he had an open touchdown run and all he had to do was drive into the end zone. Instead, he turned to find the linebacker and tried to run him down.
“There’s an aggression and passion to football for me,” Coats said.
So, it’s no surprise that toughness is one of the guiding principles for College Park’s new head football coach/campus athletic coordinator. DeSoto co-defensive coordinator was approved by the Conroe ISD board Tuesday night as the school’s third head football coach.
“I always come back to my three core beliefs in football: you have to be tough, you have to be disciplined and you have to put in a lot of effort,” Coats said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. “Those are three things that a player can control in any case. As an athletic program as a whole, I want to be led by children. Now it’s too easy for adults who have been there, have done it, to take the joy out of sports and make it harder for kids to want to participate. I want participation in our athletics while holding the children accountable.
“I want athletics to be something kids look forward to.”
Coats, who turns 36 in September, succeeds Lonnie Madison, who quit last month to take the same job at Bridgeland High School. Madison has led College Park to 31 wins over six seasons, including an undefeated district championship in 2020 and the program’s first playoff win in 2021.
Coats takes over a program that has made the playoffs seven times in 17 seasons of college football, with one playoff win and one district title.
“I’m a ball of nervousness and anxiety and excitement, but I’m excited more than anything,” Coats said. “I’m excited to meet the guys and walk onto campus, shake hands, high five. Just be a presence on campus. The one big thing I want is a family. I want us to be family in our community and for everyone to feel that we are all rowing in the same direction.
College Park is Coats’ first head coaching job. It officially starts on Wednesday.
Work brings Coats and his wife, Lauren, closer to family. Coats grew up in Georgetown, north of Austin. His parents still live there. Lauren grew up in the Brazoswood/Angleton area.
“It feels like a close-knit community,” Coats said of College Park. “They are good at a lot of sports, and for me it was like coming home in a way. I have an eight month old son. My wife and I were looking to settle down, somewhere we could be long term. We’re like two, 2-1/2 hours from both grandparents. It just seemed like the perfect solution.
Coats helped lead DeSoto to the Class 6A (Div. II) state championship last season. The Eagles allowed 20.3 points per game and beat Austin Vandegrift in the state title game, 42-17.
“I had a great mentor in Coach (Claude) Mathis,” Coats said. “When it came to the details of everything, it was crazy how every single detail of the program was under control. He’s someone I will lean on heavily with phone calls over the next six months or so.
Prior to DeSoto, Coats was the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Westwood High School in Round Rock for two seasons. But most of his coaching career was spent at the collegiate level.
Coats was a defensive quality control analyst for the University of Texas under Tom Herman from 2017 to 2019. Coats also has college coaching experience at East Texas Baptist (defensive coordinator/linebackers coach), Hardin-Simmons (defensive coordinator/linebackers special teams/defensive coach) and Trinity (assistant coach).
“The best thing I got out of UT was being stuck in a room, watching movies for eight or nine hours a day,” Coats said. “This is the only way to get good at it, by studying it. So when I got to DeSoto, I could analyze an offensive play quickly. The college experience has benefited me with studying, and now as a teacher I can break down the ground rules of the draft instead of preparing a kid about to go to the NFL. It’s common sense football that most people don’t know about.”
Coats went to Georgetown High, where he played quarterback and safety, and graduated from Trinity University, where he played safety and outside linebacker. He was a graduate assistant at Hardin-Simmons under coach Jesse Burleson, an NCAA Division III football legend.
“He was a guy who loved to come to work and he showed his players how much he cared about them,” Coats said. “I’ve never seen a group of players willing to die for their coach like that group. That guy wore it every single day, and that’s what I want to model my head coaching career on.
College Park is expected to return 11 starters next season, six on offense and five on defense. Coats said he plans to have a spring dance, which might not be until late April or early May.
But he wants to take a look at his children beforehand. She will adapt the schemes to the staff, not the other way around.
“I prefer whatever our kids can be exceptional,” she said. “It depends on who our top 11 guys are and what we can do to get them on the pitch. When I get to College Park, I want to see who our top 11 guys are on offense and defense and what fits into those molds of what we need to be.
College Park is one of three Montgomery County UIL schools to undergo a change at the helm of its football program this offseason.
Grand Oaks hired former Foster’s Shaun McDowell in late December to take over from interim head coach Aaron Johnson after Mike Jackson abruptly retired from coaching in late September.
New Caney is open after Travis Reeve left earlier this month to take the job of head soccer coach/athletic director at El Campo.