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Campbell native is new head coach at Wartburg

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By Dwane Wilder

Campbell County native Rodney Ellison has been named head football coach at Wartburg High School, where he spent the past 3 years as an assistant on Dan Shoemaker’s staff.
Ellison is a 1996 graduate of Campbell County High School and a 2007 graduate of Tusculum College.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Ellison.
“Being head coach of a high school program is a goal I’ve had since I was a senior in high school. I learned a lot from my high school coaches Johnny Bruce and Steve Pebley. They were a big influence in my decision to go into coaching.”
Ellison was hired at Wartburg shortly after he got out of college. He served as defensive coordinator during his first two seasons with the Bulldogs.
Last fall, he moved to offensive coordinator. Under his direction, the Bulldogs set several school records, including 367 total points and a scoring average of over 30 points per game. Wartburg also had a 2,000-yard passer and a receiver that racked up 1,300 yards.
The Bulldogs made a dramatic improvement over the past three years, going 1-9 in ’08, 4-6 in ’09 and 9-3 with a trip to the playoffs in ’10. The nine wins is also a school record.
“Wartburg was on a 32-game losing streak when we put this staff together. We had 13 seniors this season, so we’re losing quite a bit. But we want to continue to build the program and take steps forward and not back.
“We’ve got a good off-season program. We’re going to get stronger, keep our players hungry and give them the opportunity to reach their maximum potential.”
Ellison began his coaching career in 1997 as an assistant at Jacksboro Middle School. In 2001, he shared head coaching duties with Sean Jessie and helped lead the Eagles to a 7-2 record and their first appearance in the Tennessee Middle School Athletic Association Football Playoffs.
The following season, Ellison joined the staff at Bearden High School, where he was defensive coordinator in ’06 and ’07 for the freshman team and also coached defensive tackles on the varsity squad.
“It really helped prepare me for the defensive coordinator job (at Wartburg),” said Ellison.
“It was a good learning experience for me. I got to coach (future UT Vols’ signee) Devrin Young when he was a freshman.”