Chowan names new football coach

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 9, 2004

MURFREESBORO – Lorick Atkinson knows there’s only one direction the Chowan College football program can take at the present time – up, in more ways than one.

During a press conference held yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon in the Helms Center lobby, Atkinson was named as the man to lead Chowan football to new heights.

As the Braves new head coach on the gridiron, the former defensive coordinator at Gardner-Webb University inherits a program currently on the doorstep of making a move up to the NCAA Division II ranks. He also takes over a program that has struggled for wins over the past few years.

&uot;At 38 years old, I feel I’m ready to run my own ship,&uot; said Atkinson in front of a large audience.

In reference to a once proud football program that has fallen on hard times in recent years, Atkinson was adamant in his assumption – &uot;why not Chowan; why not now?&uot;

&uot;I’ll give you everything I have to turn this thing around,&uot; stressed the new coach. &uot;We can get this done.&uot;

Pointing to a group of his inherited players standing in the audience, Atkinson said, &uot;I know you’re hungry and I can promise you that we’re hungry too.&uot;

The Greenville S.C. native said he was accustomed to &uot;building things.&uot;

&uot;My grandfather built Death Valley (the football stadium at Clemson University),&uot; he noted. &uot;I was coaching at North Greenville College when they took their athletic program from junior to senior college status. I was coaching at Gardner-Webb when they went from NCAA Division II to Division 1-AA. I am a builder. Together, we can build Chowan College back into a winner.&uot;

Atkinson stressed the main reason he was in Murfreesboro was linked to Dr. Chris White, Chowan’s president.

&uot;He is a visionary,&uot; stated the coach. &uot;He is taking Chowan to new heights and I want to be a part of that trip.&uot;

Family and family values are also important to the new coach.

&uot;Family is important – we want you to be a part of our football family; we want you to believe in the football family,&uot; he stressed. &uot;Family is all about trust. The players have to trust their coaches and vice-versa. Once that trust goes both ways, we will be winners. If you believe in family and do the things off the field that the family is proud of, then the good things on the field will come.&uot;

To that, the new Braves skipper invited his players to meet with him immediately following the press conference.

&uot;We’ve got a lot of work to do and that work begins today,&uot; he stressed.

In presenting Chowan’s new football coach, Dr. White said he sought after a candidate that met a list of priorities.

&uot;In no particular order, we sought a coach that put the student first, not the athlete, and a coach that places graduation at the top of the list,&uot; stated Dr. White. &uot;We went after a person that has a proven track record when it comes to success at the intercollegiate athletic level and one that has experience at the NCAA Division II level.&uot;

Dr. White continued, &uot;We looked for a successful recruiter, a promoter and a man with strong family values. We found what we were looking for in Lorick Atkinson.

Former Chowan coach Steve Gill, who resigned one week ago, posted a 3-17 overall record during his two seasons at the helm. Since the school returned to four-year status in 1994, Chowan football has experienced only one winning season (1999 when coach Steve Lee’s team posted a 5-4 record). All totaled, Chowan’s overall football record since 1994 is 26-81-1 under five different head coaches.

&uot;I had a chance to talk to coach Gill last week and he was very professional and courteous with me,&uot; noted Atkinson. &uot;This is a tough business we’re in. I appreciate his honesty and his candor. I wish coach Gill and his family nothing but the best of luck.&uot;

Atkinson, an eight-year coaching veteran at Gardner-Webb, was a solid fit at the helm of the Bulldogs’ defense. His 2003 team led the Big South Conference in total defense and was ranked among the national top-25 statistically in total defense and pass efficiency defense.

After arriving on campus with head coach Steve Patton in February 1997, Atkinson helped the Bulldogs develop a strong and consistent running attack as the team’s running backs coach. Prior to the 2000 season, Atkinson’s running attack had steadily improved, with five running backs gaining at least 400 yards per season since 1997. In his first season in charge of the Bulldogs’ running backs, GWU gained over 2,000 yards on the ground en route to an 8-3 mark.

Known as an excellent recruiter with a passion for the game, Atkinson came to Gardner-Webb from North Greenville College. He spent two seasons with the Mounties’ program under Patton, helping the team to a 7-3 mark and a national (NAIA) top-10 ranking in his final year (1996). That season, Atkinson served as defensive coordinator, directing his Mounties to the second-best scoring defense mark in the Mid-South Conference.

Prior to joining the staff at North Greenville, Atkinson served as a defensive assistant with Division I-AA Furman University for one season. He was an assistant coach at Ninety Six (S.C.) High School for three seasons prior to assisting with the nationally ranked Paladins.

For the past four summers, Atkinson has served as a summer assistant coach with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (CFL), assisting with the team’s running backs. The Alouettes won the 2002 CFL Grey Cup, the league’s version of the Super Bowl.

He graduated from Gardner-Webb with a degree in Social Sciences in 1988 and earned a Master’s Degree from Converse (S.C.) College in 1990. He and his wife Angela, have a daughter, Avery, and two sons, Jack and James.