OKOLONA —Okolona now has a new head football coach, and a new family in town as well.

Anthony Watt was hired for the position May 20, and will be in charge of the high school and junior high school football programs, he said this week.

He and his wife Julissa have six children, ages 3 to 16. Julissa, a Kosciusko native, works as a counselor at Mississippi Behavioral Health Services in Columbus. Behavioral Health Rehabilitation is a program created to serve qualified children and adults suffering from serious mental illness, emotional and/or behavioral disturbances.

The family attends Greater Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Starkville.

He’s a 2005 graduate of East Oktibbeha High School, attended East Mississippi Community College from 2005-2007 and graduated from Mississippi State in 2011. He’s now working toward his master’s in educational leadership.

“I was an average hard working student who played some ball in high school, mostly defensive back and wide receiver,” he recalled this week.

He joked that his playing career quickly ended

at EMCC: “I played there a little bit before I got cut.”

He didn’t go immediately into education upon graduation from State. “I worked at South Wire in Starkville for about four years. We made wire for different companies, including some for the Dallas Cowboys stadium,” he recalled.

Okolona will be Watt’s first stop as head coach, and he’s looking forward to the challenge, he said this week.

Watt most recently served as a wide receivers assistant coach at West Point under Cris Chambless for four years. While there, he was part of the school’s championship football teams in 2018 and 2019.

He coached for a year at Kosciusko for a year —mostly working with 9th graders and the receiver corps —before coming to West Point.

His coaching resume before that also includes short stops at Ethel and Louisville. During his six year career, he’s helped coach teams into state playoffs every year but one.

Watt, who teaches U. S. Government and economics, replaces coach Lamar Harvey, who left to be an assistant at East Union.

The Okolona Chieftains compiled a 30-30 record in five years under Harvey. That record includes an 11-3 record in 2017, and a 5-7 record last year.

Coaching’s a demanding profession. What made Watt choose it instead of some easier calling?

“I want to help young men while they play football, and especially after they’re done playing football. I want to help them meet their dreams, and be able to realize those dreams by going on to better their education at some four-year schools,” he said this week.

So why did he come to Okolona?

“I’m excited to be in Okolona for several reasons. I’m looking forward to working with students and people in the community, and bringing back the winning football tradition Okolona once had. I hope to lead young men willing to go to battle on the football field.

“The program here has a rich history. It includes the 1993 state championship team, as well as former running back Robert Elliott, who graduated from Okolona in 2007 and went on to play ball at Mississippi State.

“There’s that kind of talent in this town. I want to find it and develop it. The kids on this year’s team will be tough and intelligent. Two of the team members have scored well on their ACTs, and they have 3.3 overall GPAs. I want to help other kids on the team accomplish the same thing,” he said.

What changes are coming as your first year as Chieftains’ head coach? “We want to get more kids onto the field, and get more student involvement. We’re going to open it up more offensively, and play pretty solid defense.

His coaching philosophy? “Play tough, play hard, block well. Be a hard-nosed player who hustles to the ball and makes big plays when his number’s called.”

What he most enjoys about coaching? “Creating great memories for the young men I’m coaching, and create an opportunity for them to succeed in the classroom and go on to the next level in college.”

“I haven’t found a downside to coaching. It’s been a natural calling for me.”

What’s he do in his off-duty time?

The Phi Beta Sigma fraternity member joked that he gets away from the pressures of teaching and coaching “by watching and studying football.”

He also admitted he enjoys Mississippi woods and fields: “I might hunt a few deer now and then.”

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