As a sophomore at Wossman, Maurice Pollard envisioned returning to his alma mater as head football coach. That day arrived Wednesday afternoon when Principal Trey Watson introduced Pollard as the Wildcats’ head coach during a meet and greet in the school library.
While former Wossman teammate Pat Williams aimed for the NFL, Pollard quietly pondered a coaching career. Both achieved their goals. Williams, Wossman’s current defensive coordinator, went on to play for the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings in an NFL career that spanned 14 seasons.
“Even back then, Pat was talking trash about how he was going to play in the NFL,” Pollard joked from the podium. “People probably don’t remember this, but I said I was going to be the head coach at Wossman one day.”
Three decades later, Pollard landed the job he longed for.
“This is my dream job,” said Pollard, a 1993 Wossman graduate, who played for coach Lonnie Callahan. “This is the job I have wanted since my 10th grade year of high school. When I was at Murray State, I started wearing a whistle around my neck. Growing up, this is what I wanted to become.”
Pollard plans to bring back the physical brand of football the Wildcats were known for under Ray Gambino and Callahan.
“We are going to be a downhill team with a downhill concept. We will still have some spread looks, but we are going to put our hands in the dirt, and come off the ball,” Pollard said. “Defensively, we are going to have to tackle well and be aggressive getting to the ball.
“I’m a strong mental guy. I believe if they are strong mentally, their physical attributes will take over. If I can train their minds, they won’t know the limits of their physical attributes.”
While the Wildcats are firmly established as a perennial Class 3A basketball power, the football program has — for the most part — been mired in mediocrity for some time.
“I can’t give you the exact year, but it’s been awhile since we have played football during Thanksgiving week,” Pollard said. “We want to contend for the state championship, but I understand that there are steps to getting there.”
Pollard succeeds Dean Smith, who guided the Wildcats to a 33-35 record in six seasons, including a 5-6 mark last year.
This is Pollard’s second head coaching stint. Following a four-year stay at Delhi (2007-11) as head coach and athletic director, Pollard rejoined the Wildcats as an assistant from 2012-18. Taking a break from football last season, he remained at the school as a teacher and girls soccer coach.
Pollard expects his familiarity with the athletes and the school to accelerate the transition process.
“The advantage of being an in-house guy is that you get to know the kids beyond coaching,” Pollard said. “I have always been willing to help out whether it’s coaching special teams or defensive backs or girls soccer. Most of all, I have tried to be a behind the scenes mentor for the kids.”
Pollard earned his degree in health and physical education from Murray State (Kentucky) where he helped coach Houston Nutt’s Racers claim back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships as a junior and senior.
Following Nutt to Arkansas, Pollard began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Razorbacks. He was then hired as linebackers coach at the University of Arkansas-Monticello before returning to Monroe to work at Martin Luther King Middle School.