Two years away from life as a head football coach was long enough for Jim Connor.
The longtime Evans High School coach - who retired in 2001 and spent the past two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Augusta High - is the new head football coach and athletic director at Aquinas High School.
Ironically, Connor takes over at Aquinas for Marty Jackson, who was named Evans' new coach in April after 10 seasons with the Fighting Irish.
"I'm looking forward to it, and I think it will be a good fit," said the 56-year-old Connor, who was approved by the Aquinas search committee on Monday. "I'd been out at Evans so long, it kind of got stale. I wasn't the head coach at North Augusta, and it was good for me to get away from being a head coach for a while. It allowed me to recharge my batteries, and now I'm ready to do it again."
Coming to Aquinas presents a new set of challenges for a man who spent his entire career at large-classification schools.
Evans is one of the largest schools in the state and competes in Class AAAAA; Aquinas is one of Georgia's smallest schools and competes in Class A.
"Really, the only difference will be the numbers," said Connor, who was accustomed to squads with 80 players at Evans, but will be lucky to have 30 varsity players at Aquinas.
"The kids are the same wherever you go," Connor added. "All you need is to find 11 good ones. I know the kids who come out here want to win and Marty did an outstanding job here. Hopefully, it will carry over."
Under Jackson, Aquinas was slowly transformed into a competitive program. The Irish won just five games from 1988-92 before Jackson started in 1993. After going 3-7 in each of Jackson's first three seasons, the Irish went 33-37, including 25-25 since 1998.
But Connor knows he has his work cut out for him.
He inherits a team that loses 15 seniors from last year's 4-6 team. Jackson said about 14 lettermen will return this fall.
"When you lose that many kids at a (Class A) program, that's going to wipe you out," Jackson said. "And the schedule is always rough because they're in that region with Lincoln County and Johnson County. But the cupboard's not completely bare. They've got some good skill players coming back. And you know Jim will do a fine job."
Connor's first official function as Irish coach begins Monday, when he runs his team through its first day of spring drills.
"I think it's going to work out great," Connor said. "I'm excited to get started."
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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