Last season, West Charlotte's football team earned 13 wins and trip to the N.C. 4AA semifinals, while restoring the spirit of a fan base longing for the glory days of the past.
A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools investigation later found that West Charlotte used fake addresses for some players, causing the team to forfeit all victories. First-year coach Maurice Flowers resigned amid the controversy.
Enter Aaron Brand.
The 33-year-old former Independence offensive coordinator and prep quarterback at Halifax County (Va.) High in May accepted the West Charlotte head coaching position. He offered some thoughts on the program and community. Answers were edited for brevity and clarity.
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On his biggest challenge at West Charlotte: “When I first got over here, it was obvious … that the guys were just looking for some leadership, some guidance. They want a little stability. It's giving the guys someone they can trust. Trust is a big thing on this side of town. Do they trust me all the way yet? How can they when they've had three coaches in three years?”
On the qualities he can transfer from the Independence program: “I think I've learned from the best. I think TK (Independence coach Tom Knotts) instilled in us the way to build a quality program. I'll be able to motivate. I think these guys are athletic enough that if we can be disciplined, the wins will take care of themselves.”
On West Charlotte's expectations: “Everybody is a sideline coach nowadays. Everyone knows what West Charlotte should be running. I don't disrespect the tradition and I listen to what everyone has to say, but I have my own philosophy and ideas. I'm not from Charlotte, but you have to be dumb to not know how much everyone cares about West Charlotte.
“I'm not in that win-or-die situation. I don't want to build just a football team. I want to try to build a program here and give these guys some stability.”
On the team's attitude after last year: “Extremely positive. What these guys realize is that nobody's going to give them anything. Anything they desire, they've got to go out and earn it. They want to go and get after it. They're buying into what we're saying as coaches.”
On West Charlotte's 2008 outlook: “(Senior linebacker) Brandon Grier, to me, is the best defensive player in the city. On offense, I'd be a fool not to get the ball in (sophomore Jalen “Scoot”) Simmons' hands. He'll have to be a better pass blocker and better at catching a ball out of the backfield. He's going to be one of those guys who can do it all.
“The leadership has got to come from somewhere. We're young and anxious to get at it. Hopefully that effort they've been giving in practice and in the weight room can carry over to the field.”