ROCKINGHAM – With his first full season as Richmond Senior High School’s head football coach under his belt, Bryan Till isn’t focusing on next season. Or the year after. Or the next three. No – Till has invested himself, his staff and his players into the program’s long-term future, and wants the community to know about it.
Set for Thursday, February 22, at 6 p.m. in the RSHS cafeteria, the Raider football coaches are extending an invitation to everyone in the county to attend their z“state of the program” event.
The purpose of the community meeting, according to Till, is to discuss where the Richmond program currently is, where Till hopes to take it in the long haul, as well as showcase the players and their ongoing commitment and involvement to Richmond County.
“We’re going to go over some of the things we’ve done in the community this past year,” Till said in a sit-down interview with the Richmond Observer. “We also want to talk about some of the things we’ve done with our guys in the school building. And some of the things we’d like to get done in the future.
“We want our guys (players) to look around Thursday and see the community there,” Till continued. “We’ve worked hard with tying our guys into the community, and get them to see they’re playing for something greater. That it’s not just about us, we’re representing the whole (county).”
While there are still some final details to be ironed out for the first of such events under Till’s tutelage, he expects an outpouring of support from several prominent community members. He explained that the program has reached out to several local entities, including law enforcement agencies, as well as elected officials, and hopes they’ll attend to help further Richmond’s relationship and integration with Richmond County.
“We’ve taught our players how to carry themselves around the school building,” Till commented. “And we want as many members of the community to come out (Thursday) to see that. Those folks can see what our kids are doing, and our kids can see the community away from the football field. It’ll be a night to see all of the support and the people involved.”
It’s no secret to Till, his coaching staff or his players what the expectations are of the surrounding communities when it comes to Friday night lights in Richmond County. And rest assured, the Richmond football program is intent on “closing the gap” on what it will take to become a state championship-caliber team in the near future.
And a lot of weight bears down on the upcoming season, as it is an “eight year.” Since the program’s inception in 1972, the Raiders have won four of their seven state football championships every decade during the eighth year (1978, 1988, 1998 and 2008). And while the hope is that the 4AA crown will return to the confines of Richmond’s campus this season, Till wants the community to know his game plan on exactly how he plans to bring that goal to fruition.
“Something that we’ll inform the community about is what we need to do going forward to become a championship football team,” Till said. “Especially with it being 2018, we’re going to discuss the ground we have to cover to get there. (The public) should understand the gap between a championship and where we want to go. And more importantly, how we plan to close that gap.”
And while that is the program’s ultimate goal, one area that Till has made a primary responsibility as Richmond’s head coach is the success of his players away from the football field. It’s a goal that not only has taken flight over the last year, but one that Till and his staff continue to grow, which allows local high school students to prosper as young men.
One such thing is preparing Raiders football players for academic success at the college level. According to Till, over the last four weeks, several student-athletes have been participating in ACT preparation for the February 27 test date.
Also, Till and his players are becoming staples in several local middle and elementary schools, a philosophy about integrating themselves in the community that Till puts above all else. In December, members of the team made trips to Fairview Heights and L.J. Bell elementary schools to speak to students about the importance of being upstanding young people and the necessity to stay physically fit. Till also spoke to Ellerbe Middle School students last fall during its “career day.” And just last week, Till and several other Raiders went to Monroe Avenue Elementary School to read to students.
Raiders players have also helped with Richmond’s special education students, and have volunteered their services at current NFL player and Richmond County native Melvin Ingram’s “fun day” last fall.
Perhaps most impressive, and is something that will be unveiled during Thursday’s community get-together, is the program’s leadership development team. Comprised of 12 current players (five upcoming seniors, five upcoming juniors and two upcoming sophomores), the leadership development group will start February 19, and meet for 10 weeks.
“We’re going to introduce this group of young men at (Thursday’s) event,” Till noted. “We want the community to know (and see) who are on our leadership team this year. They’ll meet once a week after school. And we plan to make a similar leadership team, on a smaller scale, for the junior varsity team. We’re trying to prep our guys.
“We’re willing to do more stuff in the community if we know about it and people understand we’re willing to (help out),” Till added. “We’re proud of these guys and we’re glad to have them do things around the community.”
Some other areas of the program that will be elaborated more on by Till and his staff during Thursday’s meeting are: players’ physical development, character and leadership building with the help of local community figures, the “Mom’s Club” involvement and planning, proper training and development of the Richmond youth program coached by Errol Hood, finding a way to conduct team physicals and “everything that entails developing a football program.”
“We want people to show up so they know what they can do to help (our program),” Till concluded.