Thompson Named Lions Head Coach

By: 
Josh Lewis

Coach Blair Thompson talking to Bradley Gramlin on the sideline this past season. 

Although there will be a new name attached to the title of Head Coach for the Salem football team, it will be a familiar face to those who have spent time around the program in the last couple decades. Blair Thompson got his “dream job” and was named Head Coach of the Lions football team on Monday afternoon. 

Thompson is a Salem graduate and was a member of the Lions only sectional championship team in 1994. He has coached at various levels of the football program for 17 years, with 12 years at the Thompson said this truly was a dream job for him. “This means the world to me. It’s the job I’ve wanted pretty much my whole life starting in seventh grade. I wrote a letter in seventh grade talking about what I wanted to do when I grew up and I said I wanted to be the head coach of Salem football. Everything I’ve done in my career was to get to this point. There for a while I didn’t think I would get the chance, but here we are.”

One reason Thompson fell in love with Salem was because of how he felt about his coaches when he played. He said he wanted to make kids feel the same way about football too. “Ever since I was in middle school and put on the red and white uniforms this was something I wanted to do. I looked up to my coaches so much. Jerry Bortka was like my second dad, and Coach Ralston made the whole thing go. I had a great experience with those guys and it was second to none. I just want to give that feeling back to kids and give them the same experience I had.”

Salem Athletic Director Hank Weedin said it was those reasons and more that Thompson was the right man for the job. “He’s been around the program really his entire life. He’s been to each area of the program. He was a middle school coach, he did some JV coaching, and he’s had stints with the varsity as a coordinator. So he has several different perspectives. He’s been around our kids for a long time as a teacher and as a coach. He’s actively involved in everything. In the current situation he was the better choice. He knows the kids, and they know him. Its an easier transition for everybody.”

Having coached all the kids either with the varisty or at middle school, Thompson said that familiarity will be to the benefit of everybody. “I’ve already established those relationships. They trust me and they know what we are trying to do. They know what the culture here is going to be like. It’s a big benefit to already know them. I’ve been around those guys for a while now, and sometimes big changes can be difficult for them. So I think it’s easier both on me and the kids.”

With social distancing and all the schools being closed right now, Weedin said doing a coaching search was a little more challenging than normal. “It’s totally different because you’re doing phone interviews and things like that. You can’t really do a broad search.  A lot of teachers and coaches are staying put with all the uncertainty. There isn’t a lot of bouncing around. We had an eye on him to begin with. He’s put everything into it. I feel like sometimes people get overlooked, and they just need an opportunity. He’s got a great chance and we are really excited about him. He can build on what Coach Hartsfield did. We had some turmoil there for a couple years and then Hartsfield kind of came in and got things headed in the right direction and brought stability in the class, and also in the community. RJ was active in the community and the classroom and I think that’s something that Coach Thompson can build off of and he will do a great job.”

When practice eventually starts under Thompson he said the Lions identity will be toughness and competing. “We are going to compete in everything we do. We have gotten better every year here. Coach Hartsfield did a great job. We’ve gotten to the edge, now we just need to get over it. I want them to have fun and enjoy the game. It’s the best game there is. We will be attacking on both sides of the ball, and we won’t be intimidated. That’s the biggest goal for me. We want teams to know that when they play Salem it will be tough, hard game, regardless of the score. Our kids are going to give everything that they have.”

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