“Sports around here, the future is so bright, you need sunglasses.”
Will Florence, a new coach in the Lee Academy football and basketball programs, said those very words Monday morning.
Florence will be helping Colts head football coach Rick Johnston with defense and helping offensive coordinator Chad Foster with strength and conditioning. He will be an assistant basketball coach at the high school level and the junior high girls head coach. Mike Reans is the new high school basketball coach.
Florence, originally from Batesville, is a 2001 North Delta School graduate. He played cornerback on the football team while Johnston served as defensive coordinator. At 5 feet, 11 inches, Florence also played basketball as a point guard at the high school and college levels.
He graduated from East Central Community College in 2003 and Delta State University in 2008 with degrees in physical education and history.
He previously coached at Clarke Prep School in Alabama. The past four years, he was the defensive coordinator for the North Delta football team and the head boys basketball coach.
Competition is the drive
“Competition, honestly, is the main drive in anything, especially sports,” Florence said. “Without sports at a young age, there’s no telling what I’d be right now without Coach Johnston when I was in high school. Two-a-days (in football) even gives you a sense of drive and purpose. You don’t have to be a star. It helps you for the future.”
North Delta is a division opponent of Lee.
The Green Wave won the division in football last season. The Colts won the division in 2019.
Florence is prepared to make a transition coming to the Colts from the Green Wave.
“It’s going to be different,” Florence said. “It’s a tough transition right now, but sooner or later, I will try to highlight that on the schedule.”
Florence said he will have a better idea of how Lee is different from North Delta after he begins teaching history in the fall. However, he already has a strong relationship with the coaching staff.
“I know the coaching staff here just like I knew the coaching staff at North Delta,” Florence said.
He does not believe the coaching staffs knowing one another will make a difference when Lee plays North Delta as the players will decide the games.
“Our kids have been in that weight room this morning for five hours,” Florence said. “That will give us a competitive advantage.”
Coaching with the Coach
Florence is excited about reuniting with Johnston 20 years after graduating high school.
“He was there for me basically my whole career at North Delta because he coached me my whole career,” Florence said. “Without his guidance and his leadership, I probably wouldn’t have even gone to college, much less played basketball. He was tough on me, but like any player or any coach, you’ll walk through fire for that man.”
He had many positive things to say about his new school Lee Academy.
“It starts with the headmaster (Rone Walker) on down to the AD (Johnston) and the staff,” Florence said. “Coach Reans, especially, getting a chance to work with him, he’s a legend. I mean he’s one of the best in the state.”
Florence plans to bring a strong attitude and work ethic to Lee Academy.
“It starts in that weight room back there,” he said. “I’ll help Coach Reans in basketball. We’ll work well together. Our philosophies are much the same.
“Coach Reans is kind of old school, stresses fundamentals. We’re still stressing fundamentals and we’re in our second week already.”
Florence said that coaching philosophy has brought success at other schools.
“We’re not going to spend 20 hours a week on film,” he said. “We’d just rather be in the gym working on skill sets.”