E.K. Slaughter is recognized as a quality football coach, but it was his humble approach that got him in the door at Red Bank High School and his maturity that got him hired to replace Tim Daniels as the Lions' head coach.
"When we started this process, he came to ask if he could apply for the job, and that spoke volumes. He could've just sent a resume," Red Bank principal Gail Chuy said. "We got the right guy, and for me personally it was his growth as a man. We always knew he was a brilliant football coach, but he has grown as a person and he is more polished."
Slaughter spent three seasons as Red Bank's offensive coordinator under Daniels before serving one year as Soddy-Daisy's head coach and then three at Cleveland in a similar position.
"You guys know what you're getting," Daniels told the group that gathered at Red Bank for the official announcement Friday afternoon. "He has grown as a person and as a coach. He has seen the good and the bad, and I consider him a good friend and a good football coach."
Slaughter has some tradition-rich shoes to fill, those of both Tom Weathers and Daniels.
He inherits an eight-year playoff string from Daniels, who had four seasons with at least 10 victories, and from Weathers, who resigned at Red Bank in 2001 following an undefeated state championship run in 2000.
"I define success differently than I did five years ago," Slaughter said. "I will always be a competitor, and when [son] Brandon gets old enough to race bicycles I might wreck him to win. I want to win, though on a bigger scale. I want to win with people and I want to win with kids. I always cared about them, but now I think I can love them. There is definitely more focus on that than ever."
The news conference caught Slaughter off guard.
"You don't have press conferences to announce the hiring of a new teacher, and this press conference was to announce that I was the new football coach," he said. "I hope you understand that I'm an educator first. It is important to be that our guys are leaders in the classroom, and I want the teachers and students to know that I look forward to being an influence -- not just with the football team but all the students."
One student in particular was pumped about the announcement.
"When Coach 'D' told us about his retirement, we had a team meeting," quarterback Hagen Wilkey said. "We told everybody to stay together and keep working hard in the weight room and that whoever comes in, we just want to keep rocking and rolling.
"You have no idea how excited I am just from the way he worked with [former Red Bank coach] Jake Ledbetter. He is someone with experience and someone who has been here before. I think he can keep going what we've been doing here for years."
Slaughter comes to Red Bank with a 22-22 head coaching record, posting an 8-4 season at Soddy-Daisy and seasons of 3-8, 6-5 and 5-5 at Cleveland.