Interview from al.com
On the more than four-hour drive back to Moultrie, Ga., Rush Propst basked in a moment he wasn’t sure would ever happen again.
Earlier that night, in front of a packed Georgia Dome, Propst won his sixth state championship — his first in nine years.
On that ride back, which included a stop at a Huddle House outside of Macon, Propst let himself enjoy the moment. He couldn’t do that at Hoover, becasue he would be back in the office 30 minutes after the championship game, plotting how he’d win his next one.
This time, though, Propst couldn’t help but smile.
“That was the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time,” Propst said. “I was relaxed. I was happy, and I was back in my zone of winning.”
There are coaches who go their whole lives never winning a state championship. But those coaches aren’t Propst, and they didn’t go through his last nine years.
There was a time when Propst was the most famous high school coach in America.
The star of MTV’s popular “Two-A-Days” television show, he guided Hoover High to four consecutive state championships from 2002-05. He was the king of an Alabama town that values football the way outsiders couldn’t understand. He imagined winning a state championship every year.
It all came crashing down in 2007.
His first marriage dissolved in the most public way possible when a local reporter went on the Paul Finebaum Show and revealed Propst had a child out of wedlock. In actuality, Propst had three children with long-time girlfriend Stefnie Duck, who is now his wife. His personal reputation was left in tatters.
He was accused of pressuring Hoover teachers to change player grades. He ultimately decided to resign from Hoover, the program he took to unprecedented success, and didn’t know where he’d go next.
He thought he hit rock bottom. Then he learned he had throat cancer.
He had to eat through a straw and lost more than 50 pounds. He could barely walk, let alone focus on football.
It was the most trying time of Propst’s life. He already landed at Colquitt County in south Georgia, hungry for success, but couldn’t find a way to break through.
He lost to the eventual state champion five years in a row.
Propst started to think he’d never win another state championship. A nine-year wait was never in the plan.
“I think I got a little bit spoiled,” Propst says. “People say Hoover has been spoiled, and I think they have been to a certain extent just like any program that wins a lot. But when you go nine years in between championships, it humbles you some.”
Propst admits he was nervous heading into Saturday’s game after losing in his last two state championship games (2006 and 2010). Colquitt County was ready to play, though, and defeated Archer 28-24 in the Class AAAAAA game, giving the school its second state championship and first since 1994. It capped a perfect 15-0 season that saw his new school defeat Hoover 35-14 on Aug. 29.
It “felt like the first time,” Propst says, recalling Hoover’s state championship win in 2000.
Rush Propst was desperate to win another state championship, but it wasn’t the only thing motivating him. Propst has long had the college coaching bug.
Watching former high school coaches like Gus Malzahn (Auburn) and Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss) — two men he considers friends — have success at the college level leaves him even more convinced he should be a college head coach.
He’s almost jumped to college football a few times. He famously interviewed for a job on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama in 2007 but reportedly lost the job after Saban asked about the extramarital affair rumors surrounding him. He was on the verge of starting his dream job, and then it was gone.
South Alabama head coach Joey Jones interviewed him for an offensive coordinator job in 2009, but Propst took himself out of the running.
At this stage in his career, he isn’t interested in becoming a college assistant. He makes nearly $200,000 between his salary at Colquitt County and his Alabama pension, and a college assistant job would almost certainly mean a pay cut.
No, Rush Propst wants to be a head coach, and he’s frustrated that he continually gets passed over for candidates with less overall experience.
“It’s something that really sticks in my craw on a day-in and day-out basis,” he said. “I feel like I could do that and go a great job. I think that’s what drives me. I think that maybe one day someone will finally take a shot at me and pull the trigger.”
Propst, 56, has no college coaching experience. He wouldn’t be the first high school coach to jump straight into a college head coach position — UNLV hired 40-year-old Tony Sanchez out of Bishop Gorman last week — but his age and past could discourage prospective employers.
Propst doesn’t have a squeaky-clean background. The extramarital affair and second family is well documented and part of his identity now.
Stefnie, his second wife, worries he may never get a shot because of it.
“I know what his dream was,” she told ESPN. “And our relationship cost him that. I feel so guilty about that every single day.”
Add in his age and a school would be taking a big risk in hiring him.
But Propst points to the success of older coaches like Saban and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier as proof his age shouldn’t matter. He beat cancer, feels great physically and wants to coach for at least ten more years. He hasn’t been shy about his past and has repeatedly said he’s a changed man.
Colquitt County believed it.
The school took him in when others wouldn’t and gave him a new lease on life. He delivered a state championship in return.
Now, he’s looking for one more place to give him a chance.
“I think if they do, I won’t disappoint them,” Propst says. “I’m going to have my mind, and teeth sunk into it pretty strong. I’m going to want to prove that I can do this.”