By RANDY TATANO
Special to Atmore News
When Hugh Fountain was announced as the new head football coach for W.S. Neal High School in East Brewton, it carried significance that went beyond sports. It reunited two men who have been friends since kindergarten.
Fountain and principal Todd Williamson are both alumni of the W.S. Neal class of ’82.
“This is our 40th reunion,” Williamson said. “There’s nothing like coming home. Both of us coming to be here is special.”
Fountain, a veteran coach of 35 years with an impressive record including two AISA state championships and several state title games, is returning to his alma mater with a tall task: turning around a team that went 0-10 last year.
“There’s nowhere to go but up!” Fountain said.
He’s not only bringing knowledge of the game, but a philosophy that goes beyond the locker room. He told a sizable crowd that turned out for a meet-and-greet Thursday, June 23, that there’s more to being a coach than just football.
“Let’s hold everyone accountable to do the right thing so we can be successful,” he said. “We want to win, but we’re trying to build good people.”
He added there’s no such thing as instant gratification when it comes to achieving goals, you have to work toward them.
“In life there’s always something that you’re going to want really bad. But if you wait until that moment, it’s too late,” he said.
Escambia County School Board Vice President Danny Benjamin told Fountain he was thrilled the coach returned to Neal. “We know where your heart is. We’re grateful you’re back home.”
Fountain was a bit sentimental about returning to Neal, which he says is his last stop.
“It’s a blessing to come here at the end of my career,” he said. “Everything we have here at Neal is a blessing. When you have people who care about you, you’re going to be successful.”
Brewton resident Randy Tatano is a veteran TV news reporter and network producer, and is currently a novelist and freelance writer for the Escambia County School System.