— By CLINT FOSTER
It was music to the ears of Ram Nation.
“I’m not here on a five-year plan, I’m here to win now,” Mineral Wells’ new athletics director and head football coach Gerald Perry proclaimed. “We’ve got some programs winning right now, but that’s not good enough. We’re going to win across the board. We’re going to have higher expectations.”
A crowd of student athletes, parents, administrators and others from the Mineral Wells community enthusiastically received their new leader of athletics as they packed into the Mineral Wells High School cafeteria Monday afternoon for a meet-and-greet with the coach in his first official public appearance.
Joined by his wife, Michelle, and children – 3-year-old Tenley, 12-year-old multi-sport athlete Talynn and 15-year-old quarterback Tristan – Perry shook hands and delivered his plan to catapult Mineral Wells to new levels of athletic prosperity.
“I’m not a football coach, I’m an athletic coach,” Perry said. “All of our sports will be treated equally. It’s very critical that we share athletes. We’re recruiting and we’ve got a bunch of kids coming back to the family. We’re going to preach family.
“It’s very important that we all buy in. Our motto right now is ‘All In.’ We’re all invested in all of our sports.”
Despite Perry’s protestations, he is more than qualified to be considered a football coach. With 21 years of coaching experience, he has spent time at Plano East, Burleson, Lake Worth, Lorena, Bastrop and most-recently Waco Midway, enjoying success at each stop.
He also has a track record of turning around losing squads. When he went to Lake Worth in 1996, he took a program that had not been to the playoffs in 15 years and won quickly, recording some of the best years in Bullfrogs’ football history.
As athletics director and head football coach at Bastrop, Perry turned a 1-9 football team into a district championship squad in just his second year and beat Austin Westlake for the first time in school history.
With his last position being co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach at perennial 5A power Waco Midway, Perry has an offensive background. He told the Index he plans to implement a multiple spread offensive package in Mineral Wells that will combine four-wideout, empty backfield sets with some single-back, triple-back and even double tight formations.
His goal is to get as many players the ball as possible to keep defenses guessing. He also plans to call most of the plays.
On defense, the Rams will shift to a 3-4 pro-style front to maximize Mineral Wells’ speed and bring constant pressure with various blitzes.
Perry said he held a workout with current football players before the meet-and-greet and changes were already evident. He said player intensity was up as they blasted rap music and focused on improving quickness and toughness.
But Perry said he is striving to elevate all of Mineral Wells’ teams to a championship caliber, not just football. Part of this plan is an athletic period, during which all athletes from every sport will work out together, three days a week, excluding game days.
“We’re going to be more physically fit, mentally strong and finish games across the board,” he said. “In basketball, for example, We’re not losing four games by two points anymore.
“We’re here to get our hands on every athlete in this community and make them as fundamentally sound as possible, so that when we start competing, we’re competing at a high level. We’re behind, but we’re not going to be behind very long.”
Perry said he is a firm believer in maximum participation in as many sports as possible. As a five-sport letterman in high school, Perry also was in the marching band, choir, National Honors Society and FFA. He said he wants the same, not only for his kids, but all of the kids in the school district.
Perry said academics are yet another critical phase in his plan.
“They’re going to get a culture shock here in academics,” he said of student athletes.
He added an athlete’s ability to perform well in the classroom is a vital part of their success both on and off the field. At Bastrop, he said he sent 31 student athletes to universities, including TCU, Colorado State, Texas and Mary Hardin-Baylor because they could make their grades and plays.
But the most immediate facet of Perry’s plan for success is an inundation of summer athletic camps to refine each and every Ram and Lady Ram.
“This summer, this community will be overflowing with camps,” he said. “Every high school coach has to offer camps for their sports. The open weight room days are over in Mineral Wells. We’re going to have a strength and conditioning camp four days a week. $50 gets you six weeks worth of workouts. That’s a big investment, athletically.”
Perry added that no camps for different sports will overlap, so no student will have to choose between two interests. The camps will also be affordable. Perry said he will offer one-day football camps for $5 and four-day camps, during which football players can receive eight hours of instruction and a T-shirt for only $10.
“My goal is to have your kids in camps all summer long for no more than $100,” Perry said to parents.
Superintendent Dr. Gail Haterius is ecstatic about the potential direction of Mineral Wells athletics with Perry at the helm.
“We’re so proud to have him on,” she said. “But I can tell you the thing that really impressed the interview committee is that he cares about kids and cares about developing kids that have great character and leading a program with integrity. That’s what we want. His goals aligned perfectly with ours.”
Perry has already launched a campaign to build the community support that he said the program desperately needs. He plans to canvas the town with Ram bumper stickers, flags and other red and white paraphernalia to promote school spirit and, by extension, city pride.
Perry has also taken to the Twitter world, like so many big-name coaches around the nation, under the handle “@Rams_CoachPerry.” Just two weeks ago, he outlined the football team’s 2014 goals in less than 140 characters:
“FOOTBALL GOALS: WIN FIRST GAME. WIN FIRST DISTRICT GAME. PLAYOFFS. WIN DISTRICT. PRACTICE THANKSGIVING DAY. WIN STATE, 100% PASSING RATE.”
With such ambitious plans and a community that is “All In,” perhaps Perry will be just what Mineral Wells has been searching for and make the Rams more closely resemble a phoenix with a meteoric ascension to prominence.