This story was updated Feb. 21, 2018, at 11:57 p.m. with more information.
Cortney Braswell admits he's a bit of a daydreamer, but even he thought the dream he shared a few years ago with a fellow up-and-coming high school football coach in the area would never come true.
Braswell, then a first-year assistant at Ringgold, was talking about a possible future that included making a difference in his hometown. That future became reality when the Rossville native was hired as the successor to Wesley Tankersley at Ridgeland.
"It's unbelievable. Getting the opportunity to go home is a tremendous honor and blessing," Braswell said. "I remember that day at Ringgold when I sat on a fence with Charles Fant gazing about the future. 'What if I'm the head coach at Ridgeland and you are at Notre Dame?'
"Well, here we are. The Lord works in mysterious ways."
Braswell, 30, was the head coach at Central the past two seasons, leading the Pounders to the TSSAA playoffs each year and amassing a 10-13 overall record. The former all-state running back from Baylor also has, in addition to Ringgold, assistant coaching stops at Bradley Central, North Murray, East Ridge and Soddy-Daisy.facebook
He admits having to inform his Central players of the decision was difficult.
"They became a part of my family," he said. "The crazy thing is we built something great together, and when you do that they become a part of your life forever."
After taking over a program that had gone 0-10 the year before he arrived, Braswell's first Central team won two of its last three regular-season games to qualify for the playoffs. The Panthers finished 7-5 last year, which includes reaching the second round of the postseason.
Braswell was a two-time all-state player and 2004 Mr. Football finalist at Baylor, and he was a member of the Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen prior to his senior season. By the end of his Red Raiders career he held the school record for single-game rushing yards and was the program's career rushing and scoring leader as well. He went on to play at Liberty University.
Now he replaces a coach who led Ridgeland to the GHSA Class AAAA playoffs each of his three seasons with the program. Tankersley's past two teams won region titles, and last year's Panthers went 11-1 for their most wins since reaching the state title game in 2012. He resigned in the offseason to become coach at Stephens County in northeast Georgia.
"It was a very competitive process with a lot of strong candidates," Ridgeland principal Karen Hughes said of replacing Tankersley. "Cortney's energy and enthusiasm, drive and discipline and respect for the game stood out. He will be a perfect fit for our Panthers, and I believe the future is very bright here."
Braswell, who acknowledged he will continue to lean heavily on coaching mentors David Bibee and Dale Jones, said his immediate plan is to evaluate the current staff and prepare for spring practice.
"I just want to evaluate the program and see what we can improve on to take the program to the next step," he said. "This program has had great success, so if it's not broke, don't fix it. I want to meet with every coach on the staff and see what their views are. We want to keep as many of those guys as possible.
"It's just a great opportunity for me. We have incredible facilities, a great principal in Mrs. Hughes and tremendous support from the community. Anyone would be blessed to coach here."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.