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Large and ready to take charge

Brian Rimpf eager to get to work as new Camden High head coach

Posted: February 13, 2017 4:53 p.m.
Updated: February 14, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

NEWLY NAMED CAMDEN HIGH head football coach Brian Rimpf was introduced to the returning Bulldog players on Friday morning inside the school’s Wellness Center. The new Bulldog boss was a standout offensive lineman at East Carolina University before enjoying a four-year career with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

For several years now, the Camden High School football team has had the mantra, “One town. One team. One goal.”

Little did the Bulldogs or their coaching staff know that one state up, Brian Rimpf was looking for that same thing if and when it became time for him to seek out a new coaching destination.

Last Tuesday evening, the 35-year-old former offensive tackle with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, was named as the 19th head football coach in the 122-year history of the sport at Camden High following a unanimous vote by the Kershaw County School Board of Trustees.

When asked what made the Camden post, which includes the position as activities director, attractive, Rimpf said he remembered the advice given to him by a former coach.

“A high school coach who had coached and been at a lot of places told me one time, ‘If you can ever find a school that is named after the town it’s in, then that’s the place you want to be,’” he said. “It’s not a directional school or named after a person. It’s named after the town and you go to Camden Elementary,  Jackson School and any other schools that we have, then you go to Camden Middle then you go to Camden High. You always know you’re going to that (CHS) school.

“I think that is where the community support and community backing comes from. All that stuff is very attractive to me. That it why Camden High School in Camden, South Carolina was the icing on the cake.”

Rimpf was introduced to the 2017 Camden High team by outgoing head football coach/activities director Jimmy Neal. In his 19 years on the football sidelines, the 1974 Camden High graduate led the Bulldogs to 133 victories highlighted by a 15-0 mark in 2001 which was capped by winning that year’s AAA state title. It was the seventh in the history of the program.

He said when he became involved with the Camden posts, he learned a lot about the tradition of the program itself as well as the man who he would be replacing.

“The job itself is attractive and the position of head football coach and athletic director is something which, on the surface, is attractive,” Rimpf said. “Then, when you dig deeper, you hear about the community support. I’ve talked to coaches from around the state from North Carolina who raved about how the people were, how supportive the community was and how great the kids were at the school.

“Coach Neal is held in high regard everywhere. One of my college coaches who I got in touch with used to recruit Camden and said, ‘That’s a great man. You better not mess it up.’ I told him that I don’t plan on doing that.”

While excited about his impending move to Camden, there was another part of this journey which Rimpf was not looking forward to and that was breaking the news to his former players in Fayetteville of his taking a new job and leaving them.

He said that in this social media-crazed age, his players learned of his hiring before he talked to CHS principal Dan Matthews and accepted the jobs.

“It was difficult. I talked to them on Wednesday,” he said. “One of the things which is difficult nowadays is the 24-hour news cycle. They found out before I could tell them. I found out at 7:45 (p.m.) on Tuesday night and by 8:30 (p.m.), I was already getting calls from people.

“One guy, actually, tweeted it before I even found out. I said, ‘I’ve got to get on Twitter and find out why it took so long for me to find out (that he had the job.)’”

Rimpf comes to Camden after having fashioned a 42-23 record in five seasons as head coach at Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville, N.C. In three of those seasons, his teams won nine or more games with a 13-3 record in 2012. His 2012 squad won the 4AA Eastern Regional title and played for the 4AA state championship while he guided the Buccaneers to conference crowns in 2013 and 2015.

When he leads the Bulldogs onto the field at Zemp Stadium for the Aug. 18 season opener agaimnst Lugoff-Elgin, the North Carolina native will become the first non-Camden High graduate to be calling the shots  for CHS since Buck Priester in 1962. Since then, Wallace “Red” Lynch, Billy Ammons and Jimmy Neal have been the head coach at their alma mater.

Rimpf is well aware that he has some big shoes to fill. He said pressure comes whenever you are asked to perform and is waiting at every stop that you choose to make.

“All along the way, when I was in college and (East Carolina University) offered me a scholarship, then I got drafted in the NFL (by the Ravens in 2004), my mindset has always been that I’m going to prove you right,” he said of his being tabbed for his new job. “To be the first one in 55 years to not be from here --- I plan on being from here now and for a long time --- there is pressure, certainly, with that. I love pressure. I thrive under pressure that’s what football is. We get judged every single Friday night by the score on the scoreboard and how many points we score and how many points we stop them from scoring.

“I love the pressure and that’s the way it has been for a long time. My mindset is that I’m going to prove them right on the field but we’re also going to have the best graduates, the best classes of student-athletes to come through here. They’re going to come back and they’re going to be supportive and be part of the community that way.”

In his meeting with his new team, Rimpf sprinkled in words such as dedication, commitment and character. A former team captain at ECU who graduated with a degree in accounting and finance while also taking MBA courses before starting his NFL career, Rimpf was part of the NFL’s Wharton School Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s world-renowned Wharton School of Business. When he talks to young men and women about being a well-rounded individual, it is more than just lip service.

“With Google,” he said, “you can find out a lot about people. What I want them to find things that they can’t find out on Google.

“Our expectations for them as players and our expectation for them as they grow up and mature is to come back to Camden to be productive citizens. I want them to hear those things now. As for the football stuff, the weight room stuff and the X’s and O’s, we’ll get to those later. (Today) I certainly wanted them to try and get a feel for who I am.”

If he were in the NFL, Rimpf would be considered a “players’ coach.” There are newspaper photos of him working out alongside his players during practice. There are videos of his getting in the middle of his team’s huddle and firing them up before, during and after games and practice. He said being a former NFL player gives him instant credibility with young people but trust is something which has to be earned on a continuous basis.

The 6-foot-5 inch Rimpf, who was listed at 319 pounds during his NFL days, makes no bones about being fully invested in his players and his program.

“I feel that kids respond really well to that,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve never had a problem of getting lost in the middle of the group. I can’t wait until I coach kids that are my size. I feel the more involved you are … it’s just like going out in the community to talk to the booster club  or, in the schools … the more you’re involved, the more relational capital you have.

“Our preacher always talks about having relational capital. You can’t just walk up to somebody and tell them what to do unless they know you have a relationship with them. The more involved you are, the more you are around them, the more influence you will have over them. I intend to be a great influence which will be better for all of them.”

One question which Rimpf was asked by a player was what offensive and defensive schemes he will run at Camden. Later, he talked about his plan but first said he needs to evaluate personnel but added his Jack Britt team ran a form of offense similar to that of which CHS did in its RPO (run-pass option) last fall.

Rimpf did his homework before looking into the Camden job and knew that with senior Devin Beckley under center, the Dogs averaged scoring better than 39 points per game in 2016. Defensively, Camden allowed opponents to score at a 38.8 points per game clip and surrendered 70 and 77 points to Fairfield Central and eventual AAA state champion Chapman in its final two games of the season.

There is little question as to which side of the football needs the most attention coming in to the 2017 season.

“We certainly want to shore up the defense a little bit,” he said. “I was part of a team that, one year, we scored 45 points a game but allowed 38. A lot of those games were close for no reason. The past couple years (at Jack Britt), we’ve had a pretty good defense.

“Offensively, I always feel that we can manufacture something. We can use the guys that we have to score points. We just have to coach ‘em up and be better than the guys we’re facing.

“As far as X’s and O’s and what schemes we’re going to run, I want to run what’s best for these guys and for what they will be most successful in. In high school, I think, that is what you have to do.”

Rimpf punctuated his talk to th group by telling him the high regard football players have in a community such as Camden. He told them about how he set certain standards for himself when he signed a National Letter of Intent with ECU at the age of 18. He still holds himself to making sure that he sets an example in and around the community.

“I always knew people were watching me,” he said. “That’s how I live my life. I want you to follow me around and I want you to see what I do. I’m a believer and I feel that faith is important; that’s one of the reasons I’m here. God opened this door which I didn’t even think was a door but he certainly opened it and we’re going to walk through it.”

Rimpf came to Camden on Friday with his wife and their four children. Already, he said, they felt as if they were part of the community. He said they are looking forward to calling Camden home.

“I’m at the point in my life where my family is looking to be in a place where we’re going to be for a long time,” he said. “I have three elementary school-aged kids and another one who is about to turn two. I’m going to coach my kids. My oldest two sons are going to play football and I’m sure my youngest one is going to, also. I want to be in a place where we’re proud to be at and feel at home.

“We’ve already had a tremendous amount of support. I’ve received phone calls all week from people I’ve never met who got my number and who have introduced themselves. To me, that’s great. It’s a great feeling and we feel real good about it.”

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