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Howard's football program didn't have to go far to find its next head coach. The high school turned to one of its own on Thursday, putting former Hustlin' Tigers star and longtime assistant Dedric Maffett in charge of the team.

"This is a lifelong dream for me to come back and hopefully be an influence on the kids like I had when I played here," Maffett said. "It's definitely more special that my first head coaching job is here. I grew up around this program, so this opportunity is a real blessing.

"There were some tears of joy but also some of sadness when I got the call because my dad just passed away in 2019, and I know how much this would have meant to him. He was a Howard alum, too, and he always encouraged me, and I wish he was still here to see this because he would be really proud."

Maffett takes over for John Starr, who stepped down in May after five years as the Hustlin' Tigers coach. Starr compiled a 26-27 record at Howard, with the team making the state playoffs in three of his five seasons.

"To come behind someone as structured as Coach Starr was, you know the foundation is already set," Maffett said. "I already know the players and I have a love for them. My main priority is to make sure they're in place academically to be able to position themselves for more opportunities in life through education.

"We're a little behind other teams just because of the timing of this hiring, but we're going to get to work now, and I'm very excited and ready to get going."

A 1995 Howard graduate, Maffett went on to play linebacker at Austin Peay and later professionally in the Arena Football League for five seasons. Since returning to Chattanooga, he has worked as an assistant at David Brainerd, East Hamilton, Brainerd and Howard. He has been the defensive coordinator for the Hustlin' Tigers the past five years.

"He was by far the best candidate we had, just based on his qualifications and character," Howard athletic director David Moore said. "It helped that we already knew him, what the program means to him, and the kids are familiar with him. That should help make for a smoother transition."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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