ST. PETERSBURG — The chiseled figure in the bicep-hugging Northside Christian polo shirt was greeted in a matter befitting a star.
The student body gathered in the gym. The band played. Highlights of bruising runs showed on a big screen.
And that was all before former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott walked to the podium to be introduced as the new football coach Wednesday.
“I’m excited to be here and be part of this family,” Alstott said.
Alstott succeeds Andre Dobson, who left after four seasons to coach at Lakeland Victory Christian. This is the first head coaching job for Alstott, who has worked as an assistant in the youth league at Seminole and at St. Petersburg Catholic. He inherits a team that went 1-9 last season and struggled with numbers.
“There is going to be some trial and error,” Alstott said. “I want to understand the students and athletes we have here and grow and build relationships.”
Northside athletic director Raul Hernandez said there were more than 50 applicants. Alstott was not one of them. But he soon became the chosen one, the coach who could provide celebrity and credibility to a nondescript program.
“I told Mike that I was a season ticket holder,” Northside high school principal Gina Burkett said. “It was exciting to have someone here who I watched and has such a high skill level. But he also has strong faith and wants to touch young lives. The skill set was tempting enough, but we wanted to make sure the values he had are parallel with who we are. It was a good match.”
The 10-day process concluded with Alstott being hired Monday night.
“I got a text early on that they wanted to talk to me about being a head coach,” Alstott. “I had to feel it out and decide where to take it.
The jump from being a position coach to being a head coach will be a challenge. But I was excited about the opportunity to come to Northside. This is something I wanted to be a part of.”
Now comes the hard part: building a team. Alstott still has to assemble a staff and put in a game plan for spring practice, which starts in three weeks.
“The biggest goal is getting to know each other,” Alstott said. “It will be a fast process to get prepared. We’re not going to throw the kitchen sink at them just yet.”
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org