Ralph Potter was deep in thought as he walked all alone around the Spears Stadium track one afternoon last week.
He had just finished a short run and he was trying to relax as a thousand thoughts about the upcoming football season swirled through his head.
Potter has grown up at McCallie School where he played football for his late father Pete Potter before graduating in 1981. He went on to play football at UTC where he was the starting quarterback for the Mocs for two and a half seasons before his career was cut short by a shoulder injury.
Potter graduated from UTC in 1985 with a major in history before embarking on his coaching career.
He served as Baylor's head coach from 1994-96 before taking the McCallie job for the first time in 1997, staying until 2006 when he packed his bags and headed toward the Music City as the head coach at Brentwood Academy. He was there for five years before returning to his old stomping grounds for his second stint as the McCallie head man.
"I'm glad to be back. It's like putting on an old shoe as it's very comfortable and it fits well. I never plan ahead as far as my coaching career is concerned. However, I'm through moving," the 49-year-old Potter said with a straight face.
"I've always been a little bit restless, just wondering what was around the next corner. There's a lot of expectations in this league and it's tough being a head coach as there's a lot of turnover. I really didn't know what to think coming in here, but we have a good senior class.
"McCallie was 5-6 last year, so we have a long way to go. It's still too early to tell a whole lot about this team as we're still trying to learn how to line up on defense. We're light years from where we need to be. I'm not sure I'm ever pleased, but we always want to get better. We're nowhere near where we can be," he continued.
"There's no question, I'm a lot more comfortable here at McCallie as they let me be who I am. Most everyone understands what I'm trying to do and they allow me to do it," he nodded.
Potter was quick to say what his top priorities are for this team.
"First off, we want to win the state championship. Second, we want to advance to the semifinals because that will put us in the championship game. Third, we want to host a playoff game and fourth to beat Baylor.
"Beating Baylor is in a special category of its own, but our ultimate goal is to teach young men and help develop them into productive citizens," he declared.
The Potter name has been an integral part of McCallie's success for a long time as Pete was the head coach for 21 years for dying in 1995. Ralph's mother Lorraine is now 80, but she's been a dedicated football wife and mother most of her life.
Even when Ralph was coaching at Brentwood Academy, she rarely missed a game. And as you might expect, she knows more about football than most people.
Ralph and his wife Jennifer will celebrate their 27th wedding anniversary on December 14 and they're the proud parents of two children, including Ann, a 17-year-old junior at GPS, and Jud, an 18-year-old senior at McCallie who'll be the right guard on his daddy's football team.
"I also have an older sister named Lisa Bryant who lives in Dunlap. We have a tight-knit family and we spend a lot of time together," Ralph concluded.
McCallie's season opens on Aug. 24 with a trip to Athens to face non-district foe McMinn County. The Blue Tornado then plays at home for the first time against defending D-II state champ Ensworth on Aug. 31 before another home game the following Friday against always-tough Tyner.
The game with Baylor will be played at Finley Stadium on Sept. 21.
There's a lot of work to be done to get McCallie's football team back where it used to be. Ralph Potter feels like he's the right man for the job.
He's just glad to be back home.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)