The mood was upbeat and exhilarating at the second day of football practice for first-year Truman High School coach Charlie Pugh and his young Patriots.
“Yesterday was good, and today was even better,” said Pugh, who spent much of the final moments of the camp high-fiving and visiting with the players as they headed for the locker room. “We aren’t at the numbers I hope we will eventually reach, but everyone who was here Monday and today want to be here. And I’ve talked with our staff and we’re interested in coaching the guys who want to be here.”
The former offensive coordinator at Liberty North High School takes over a Truman team that is coming off a 3-7 campaign.
Pugh replaces Gregg Webb, who stepped down after compiling a 17-25 mark over the past four years at Truman, including an 8-3 record in 2015. After going 0-10 his first season, Webb brought the struggling program back to respectability, and Pugh hopes to continue creating a new football culture within the Patriots program and the community.
“I really like what I’ve seen from the players this week,” Pugh said. “Everyone is positive and upbeat, and that’s how you begin to change the culture at a school.”
Pugh played and coached at Northwest Missouri State University from 1996 to 1999. During that time the perennial NCAA Division II power had a record of 52-4, winning four MIAA conference championships and two national titles. He played for former Northwest coaching legend Mel Tjeerdsma, who was 0-11 in his first season with the Bearcats, so he knows what it takes to build a winning program.
“We had 74 kids show up at one time or another during the summer, and we’d like to see them come back out for the team,” said Pugh, who worked with around 40 players on Tuesday. “We want to create something special here, something that everyone wants to be a part of. And I think we can do that.
“I can’t wait for the next day of practice to see what we accomplish and how much more excited everyone gets about being a part of this football program.”
After graduating from Northwest Missouri, Pugh joined the staff at Liberty High School, where he worked on the defensive side of the ball. He joined the Liberty North staff as co-defensive coordinator in 2011.
This will be the first head coaching position for the 39-year-old, who has been a part of the Liberty school system the past 15 years.
“I was very excited when I was given this opportunity to coach at Truman High School and I am still excited, but I’m not just excited about football. I’m excited about something we call living our lives ‘To a T – a Truman T,’” Pugh said. “We’re working hard to get better every day – better here at practice, in the classroom, in the weight room and in the community.”
He knows he cannot change the Truman football culture overnight, but does know that a positive approach and enthusiasm from his coaches and players can go a long way to making that change.
“We’re going to be young,” he said, “but I have so seen so many good things this week and I’d like to think that a lot of good things are going to happen within this program.”
A young man briefly interrupts Pugh to give him a handshake and a hug.
“See what I mean?” Pugh said, beaming from ear to ear. “We’ve got some special young men on this team and we’re going to do everything we can to help them be successful.”