COLUMBIA — Arnel Monroe has helped lead Hickman High School's football team since 1993, before most of his players were born. Now, the 1985 Hickman graduate is the new head coach.
Before taking over the program, Monroe served as defensive backs coach, defensive line coach and defensive coordinator. All of his experience has helped him ease into his new role.
Hickman (6-4 last season) vs. Rock Bridge (4-6 last season)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Memorial Stadium
"Football wise, the transition has been seamless," Monroe said. "I've been blessed to have great assistant coaches."
Senior wide receiver Shane Beair and senior strong safety Cameron Solomon said practice has been more focused and structured with Monroe as head coach.
"He is pretty respected among all the players," Solomon said, "Everyone makes sure to do what he says and get it done."
The first game for Monroe is also the biggest of the season. He said he will try to keep his Kewpies level-headed for Friday's Providence Bowl. In the past, Monroe has seen nerves affect his players in the big game against Rock Bridge, but his players cope.
"You just have to try to drown it out," Beair said.
The crowd at Memorial Stadium for the Providence Bowl can be intimidating for players, but Monroe said that part of the game has never affected him.
"Honestly, I couldn't tell you (about the crowd)," Monroe said. "I've been so locked in on the games."
Monroe knows he has to be focused and ready for anything.
"If you win, you're trying to get their heads back down and get them ready to play nine more games," Monroe said, "If you lose, you're trying to save the ship."