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Clower glad about stepping in as Weightman football coach

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2000


Spring football is in full bloom, but a familiar face is missing from the Pasco sideline.

Assistant coach Johnnie Clower, a former standout tight end at Pasco and later Florida State, said he has accepted the job of head football coach at Weightman Middle School.

Clower was Pasco coach Ricky Thomas' top aide for seven years, first at Weightman then at Pasco. Thomas even coached Clower at Pasco Middle.

But the two parted ways after 1999's 4-6 season, the worst in Thomas' 22 years as a coach.

Clower was a top assistant and coached special teams, but was best known as team motivator.

Neither Thomas nor Clower would comment, but at times last fall the tension on the coaching staff was visible.

Clower, 32, said he will use much of what he learned from Thomas in his new position.

"I'm going to take a lot of his ideals with me that I've incorporated," Clower said.

Thomas offered his protege the best.

"I wish him well," Thomas said, "and I know he'll do a good job."

Clower said his decision to leave was motivated partly by the desire for a new challenge: coaching his own football team, especially the county's premier middle school program.

In the fall, Clower accepted the boys basketball coaching job. Then former Weightman football coach Tom Mine told Clower he should also take over the football team.

After weighing the offer, Clower officially accepted after Christmas.

"Oh, I'm very excited ... to tell you the truth," Clower said. "It's different. To have these young kids come up to me, ask me when we're having our first meeting, it's exciting watching their faces.

"It's very exciting to be a part of this. Any time you step into something new, when you're the head man, when you're in charge, you've got to be excited about it. And it helps me understand some of the things Ricky has gone through all those years."

Clower said Mine will stay on to help coach. Offensively, Clower said, his philosophy will be wide-open.

"We'll have a little bit of everything," he said. "Pro set, do a little bit out of the Power-I, do something out of the run-and-shoot. I love that stuff, some play action, you'll see us in three-wide set sometimes."

Most of all, Clower said, he wants to stress the basics.

"(I'm) trying to help these kids learn and teach them more technique and fundamentals to help them be prepared for high school," Clower said, "whether it's Wesley Chapel or Pasco."

Clower ruled out joining another varsity staff in the fall, but said he sees himself returning to the high school sideline eventually.

To bolster his staff, Thomas said that baseball coach Ricky Giles will coach offensive line.

Giles returns after a two-year hiatus. He coached under Thomas in 1997.

"Rick brings a lot of experience, and the kids like him," Thomas said, "and he brings a lot of enthusiasm to the program, and I thought it was time for him to come back."

Lenny Polanski again will coordinate the defense and coach linebackers and defensive ends; Bill Adams will coach the defensive line and help with the offensive line; Pasco alum Bobby Wade joins Doc Harris and Jeff Bush on the junior varsity staff. As usual, Thomas will call his offense's plays.

Clower said he has one regret.

"The only thing that gets me is spring football," he said. "I'm used to yelling, hollering, blowing the whistle, getting after people, and now all I can do is lift weights after school, to take my mind off it.

"You do it your whole life, playing and coaching football, and I miss it. I'd be trying to pull the wool over someone's eyes if I said I didn't miss it."

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