Rush Propst let the question sink in for a brief moment before answering. By the time it was asked, Propst had outlined a multitude of reasons for his decision to return to coaching by accepting a role as the associate head coach and athletic director at Coosa Christian in Gadsden.
He talked about family. He talked about chasing championships. He talked about philosophy. He talked coaching at a Class 1A school after years of making a name at larger schools. He talked about "a cloud" surrounding his name in the state of Alabama.
Then, he was asked if returning to the state to coach gives him a better opportunity to remove the cloud instead of talking about it. In other words, showing instead of telling.
"If I would have stayed retired, I don't think I could ever erase the negativity that I had on my name in this state," Propst said. "I'm not a member of the Hall of Fame, and it bothers me. I'm not going to lie. It does. It bothers me a little bit. When I look and see some of the people that go in and their accomplishments, I think it's important for me to come here, keep my nose clean, do the right things, win, and hopefully, one day, I can get there. I'd rather do that by basically showing people, Rush is doing the right thing."
No question that Propst's on-the-field accomplishments are Hall of Fame worthy. He's been a high school football head coach in Alabama for 19 seasons and compiled a 176-61 record. Obviously, as a coach, he's best known for transforming Hoover High into the most powerful program in the state. Over nine seasons, he was 110-16 at the school, with five state championships in the largest classification and seven consecutive championship game appearances from 2000 to 2006.
Off the field, he was engulfed in controversy when he resigned from his position at Hoover following the 2007 season. His extramarital affair drew national attention.
He moved to Georgia and turned a struggling Colquitt Country program into one of the state's finest. He compiled a 119-35 record with back-to-back unbeaten state championship seasons in 2014-15 and three more state championship game appearances. He also coached for a year at Valdosta High. Both stops ended in controversy.
"I'm not going to deny that I have been in some controversy," Propst said. "Some of it is self-inflicted, but some of it is not warranted. You know how the media is today, they print things, but they never print the rebuttal. Hopefully, I can clear the clouds, move forward, and do it right here."
Perhaps he can, but why do that at Coosa Christian?
"What drew me was the smallness of it," Propst said. "I played at Ohatchee High School, a 1A school, back in the 70s. Coaching is coaching. I don't care if you're coaching 1A football or the NFL. I see the same stupid mistakes on Sunday as I see Friday night in the smallest classification."
His first head coaching job came at Ashville, which, at the time, was a Class 3A school. He was 25-20 in four seasons, with his final team finishing 12-2 and advancing to the state playoff semifinals for the only time in school history.
"I still cherish the days when I was at Ashville High School," Propst said. "I can remember my bass boat was at the fieldhouse. It would be 1:30 in the afternoon, and the players were done lifting. I was supposed to be there until 3 o'clock. I'd called up on the hill to the superintendent and ask, do you mind if I go fishing? He could see my fieldhouse. He'd say, if you bring back a bag of fish, you can go. There are things I enjoyed when I was at Ashville, Ohatchee and Heflin that really excite me."
O'Bryant arrived at Coosa Christian in 2020. Since moving from 8-man football to 11-man in 2005, the school had made five playoff appearances but never won a postseason game. This past season, O'Bryant led the team to a 9-5 record, and the Conquistadores came within a Pickens County Hail Mary on the final play of the Class 1A semifinals of making the championship game.
It was his decision to pursue Propst.
"I'm a visionary guy," O'Bryant said. "I've got all these things that run through my mind 24/7 on where I expect this deal to be. It just popped in my mind one night. I can't remember if I reached out to (a close friend about the idea) or he reached out to me. I said just put the feeler out. If he says no, then no big deal, move on. I got the call back that he was open to talking."
Eventually, that turned into Propst returning to high school football in Alabama.
"The thing is, I do believe complacency is the worst thing you can go through," O'Bryant said. "If you don't continue to rock the boat, complacency sets in, whether you like it or you dislike it. It doesn't matter how many you win. If you don't continue to rock the boat, complacency will set in. It's good to shake the tree down every three years, in my opinion. Bringing him was a no-brainer. It was just an easy choice for me."
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