Opportunity binge

Rush reflects: One-on-one with former Valdosta coach Rush Propst

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VALDOSTA – More than a week has passed since Titletown High premiered on Netflix and the community, and the internet for that matter, is buzzing.

Last week, The Valdosta Daily Times caught up with director and executive producer Jason Sciavicco. This week, we caught up with the star of the show – former Valdosta head coach Rush Propst – to get his thoughts on how the series was received, his thoughts on the series, his coaching style, where his relationship with Michael “Nub” Nelson went sour and his future in coaching.

Q&A with Rush Propst

How would you describe the reactions that you’ve seen from Titletown High since it premiered?

RP: “You know, I think it’s been extremely positive from what I’ve seen. You’d have to ask Jason Sciavicco. He has a PR department that tracks all of that and the last thing he told me is that it’s been over 95% positive. I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but I talk to him two or three times a day. He’s tracking all of that and what I’ve seen on my social media and my wife stays up on Facebook and it’s been really positive. I’ve been very pleased with that part.”

Have you had a chance to watch the entire series?

RP: “Actually, I finished it (Tuesday) night. I tried to watch a couple episodes here and there. I didn’t binge or anything. As a matter of fact, I watched one episode – two or three days of it so I finished the last episode (Tuesday) night.”

What was your reaction to how the players were portrayed and how you were portrayed?

RP: “I thought it was good. I thought it was well done. Jason Sciavicco does good work. All you’ve got to do is ask Notre Dame, Florida State, Navy, Kentucky basketball and the people at Hoover High School and the Hoover community. To me, the people that are negative about it are the people that wish they had the same thing going on. They wish they had a show about their high school.

“Is there some high school drama in it? Yeah, there is, but that’s just part of life. That’s part of being a high school football player and what he goes through playing at a high-profile program and dealing with the personal side of your life. Hardcore football people would want all football. That’s not what the show is about. It’s got to balance the lives of high school football players and what they go through. I thought Jason did a phenomenal job with doing that.”

Diving into the series, there were things we finally got a chance to see the other side of, namely the Jake Garcia situation. You said at the time that you felt you did everything by the book and that was communicated in the documentary. How do you feel that situation was portrayed on-screen and the decision for him to move to Grayson?

RP: “I thought it was very accurate. I thought it portrayed him very well. I think it portrayed the situation very well. I think we did all we could do. I thought we did everything right. What’s telling to me that nobody really knows is that the University of Miami and the NCAA did a thorough investigation on Jake and found no wrongdoing. They found that he was not recruited. He didn’t take money like people said. To me, that’s powerful. I knew he hadn’t done anything wrong and I think the NCAA proves that with the University of Miami. That was a relief to me and I know it’s been a relief to Jake and his family.”

Both in Two-A-Days and this, it felt like those series did a good job of capturing the essence of your tough love coaching style. How well do you feel like it illustrated your coaching style and shed light on how you do things?

RP: “I think it showed a true portrayal of how I do coach. In today’s world of – whatever you want to call it, a feel-good society, if you will – I’m probably a dying breed when it comes to that, but there’s more successful coaches that coach like I coach than not. I’m old school. I’m hard-nosed. I think if you followed around Jimbo Fisher or Nick Saban or a Bill Belichick or any successful football coach, they’re going to be hard-nosed and I know a lot of high school coaches that are the same way.

“But, on the same token, you’ve got to also love your kids and you’ve got to do what’s best for your children. I think that’s why I’ve got such a great relationship with my former players. They’re constantly reaching out to me through social media or a call. I talked to a kid yesterday that I coached back in 1996. He reached out to me on Instagram and I probably hadn’t talked to him since 1997 or ’98. He called and said, ‘Coach, I just wanted to reach out and tell you how much I appreciate you.’ To me, that’s important. When you hear that side of it, that makes you feel good. Again, it accurately portrayed how tough I am on our players and how demanding I am, but life’s demanding. The world is demanding. With that being said, as a coach, you have to be that way. If you’re not, you’re cheating your kids a little bit.”

Given that you were the coach at Hoover in 2006 when they did Two-A-Days and you were the coach at Valdosta when they did Titletown High, how do the two shows compare and how do they differ?

RP: “I think the kids now and then are very similar. They’re more similar than not. I do believe that today’s society is different compared to ’05. Where the difference comes from is kids now are a lot more comfortable in front of cameras because of social media. They’re always doing Tik Tok videos or they’re on Instagram or Snapchat or Twitter or whatever. They’re way more comfortable now being on camera, whereas I thought it took our kids at Hoover a little longer to get used to it. These kids within a few days were used to it. A lot of that is because Jason and (his crew) are so good at what they do.

“The boyfriend-girlfriend stuff was the same, the football was the same. One of the differences is in ’05, we won the state title that year and that was the fourth consecutive state title in the largest classification and that had never been done. I believe the show had a lot to do with that because it motivated our players. I had run out of motivation for winning a state title. We had won three in a row and four of the last five. I had run out of things, so when Jason wanted to do a show for the ’05 season, I thought it was a great motivation for our players because they didn’t want to fail on camera.”

Was there anything in this documentary that you felt apprehensive about or a little bit worried about?

RP: “No. Not that I can put a finger on right now. Not that I know of.”

The series ends with the friction between you and “Nub” Nelson. In your opinion, where did that relationship go sour?

RP: “I never trusted him…I never trusted him. I didn’t like the direction of our Touchdown Club at the time. I think the coach has to run the club. The coach has to be in charge of his organization and there was a disconnect between us on that part of it. I think the coach is ultimately responsible for his Touchdown Club and I think, with that, I saw that he wanted to be in charge. He wanted things done his way and I didn’t think the way he was doing it was the right way.”

Since your dismissal at Valdosta and your former assistant Shelton Felton taking over after you, what is your opinion of Coach Felton as he moves forward as the coach there?

RP: “I think he’s a phenomenal man. He’s somebody that you would want to coach your son. He’s a very good football coach. He worked for me two years in Moultrie. He progressed to being a head coach after we won it in ’14 and then from there, he was successful and then he moved on to the college ranks and then he was at Tennessee. … Valdosta’s in good hands with Shelton Felton.”

Now that you’ve had time to be away from the situation at Valdosta, what are some of the plans you have for your future?

RP: “I’m just taking a year off and doing things that I’ve never…

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