Today's interviewee is Bowdon coach Rich Fendley, whose team is 3-0 after a 1-9 finish in his first season. Fendley had been the defensive coordinator at Westside in Macon for one season and on Heard County's staff for nine. Fendley is the son of the late Richard Fendley Sr., the longtime Warner Robins defensive coordinator and head coach
Rich Fendley, Bowdon head coach
1. You were 0-3 this time a year ago. Now, you're 3-0. What are the main reasons for the turnaround? "I attribute going from 0-3 to 3-0 to three things. First, the county office and principal let me bring in eight of the best coaches that I could go out and find. I have a very supportive administration at Bowdon and brought in coaches that are great with bringing the best out of kids. Secondly, we had five seniors and 28 players in the program. We played a lot of young kids and got them game experience. We now have 16 seniors and 65 kids in the program. This year we are playing with 18-20 returning starters. Thirdly, we got a full year of an offseason strength program that our kids bought into. We are now bigger, faster and stronger at every position."
2. What's your background in football, and how did it become such a big part of your life? "I grew up in a football family and a football town. My dad [Richard Fendley Sr.] coached for 40 years in Georgia. I played for him and one of the state's winningest coaches, Robert Davis, at Warner Robins during the heyday of Demon football. I got to be a part of three region titles and a state title  while at Warner Robins. I went on the play four years at the University of West Georgia under some great coaches that included Charlie Fisher, Glenn Spencer and Gary Otten, among several others. I got to be a part of a group that took UWG from a struggling D-II program to the No. 10-ranked team in the country my senior year. I would say that most of my baby pictures included a football in some way."
3. Which coaches had the biggest influence on you, and in particular, what do you feel that your father taught you that shapes you as a person and coach today? "I have taken something from every coach I have come across as a player and coach. If I had to pick, I would say as a player my high school O-line coach Bryan Way [Warner Robins] and my college O-line coach Gary Otten [West Georgia] had a big influence on me. I loved playing for both and never wanted to disappoint either one during school, practices or a game. Both were fun to be around during film, practice and even away from football during the offseason. I always thought to myself that when I got into coaching, I wanted to be like these coaches because I hoped my future players would want to play as hard for me as I wanted to play for them.
"As a coach, I would say three stand out that I have worked for. Tommy Walburn [at Troup] taught me that you can still be old school as long as the players know that you care about them and love them. Tommy used to say that real football players want you to coach them hard. Robert Herring [at Newnan] might have been the most organized coach that I have worked for. He knew how to run the ins and outs of a football program. He had duties and organization broken down for each day of the week. He had responsibilities broken down to the smallest detail. Finally, Tim Barron [at Heard County] taught me about how to treat coaches. Coaches love to work for him. In my 10 years, not many coaches ever left his staff. Coach Barron also taught me how important it is to treat your players like they were first class. We had nice uniforms, nice weight room, turf football field, a nice field house and nice gear to work out in. He taught me the importance of surrounding yourself with good people, keeping them and treat your players first class.
"My dad was probably the biggest influence of them all. He was hard but fair. What I most respected about him as a coach is that he could take a player with no talent and turn him into a decent football player. He could turn an average player into a good one. He could turn a good player into a great one. There was a running joke that you could give Richard Fendley Sr. the worst 11 players on a roster and he could turn them into a dang good defense. I try to do the same with young athletes in this day and time."
4. Why did you choose Bowdon? And is the team ready to contend for a region title? "My wife asked me a few years ago what my dream job would be. I told her a Class A job with tradition where the whole town shuts down on Friday nights in the fall to watch football. That's exactly what Bowdon is. It is a place where my kids can have a chance to play at an earlier age than they could at a 5A or 6A school. I am very thankful and fortunate that they offered me the job. I also like how the whole community feels like family. If there is an athletic or personal need, there is always someone willing to help. How good is our team? We are a lot better than we were at this time last year. How good we can be is up to our players and coaches. I keep preaching that if we show up to get better each Monday, by the end of the season we could be a really good football team. We honestly feel like we have closed the gap on every team on our schedule. How much have we closed it, I don't know. Hopefully each week we will find out just like the first three weeks. We just have to show up to practice each week with the mentality that we are going to try and get better and out-work our opponents."
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