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Ammons: Clyburn's plus for AJ

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By Robert Howey

New Andrew Jackson High football coach Louis Clyburn has a solid endorsement from his prep football coach.

Billy Ammons, who coached Clyburn at Camden High School, said he thinks the Volunteers' new coach will produce in "Big Orange Country."

"I think Louis will do well," said Ammons. "I was glad to see him get a high school job."

Clyburn, 35, was named the Vols' new football coach Jan. 8.

He was selected from a field of 55-plus candidates, which included coaches with experience in high school and college football.

"I understand there were a lot of good candidates," Ammons said. "That says a lot for Louis in getting the job."

Clyburn comes to AJ with 13 years of coaching in college.

"He's worked as an assistant football coach at Appalachian State, Duke, Lenoir Rhyne and Elon.

"Louis has been around some good programs and I'm sure with that experience he's going to bring some good ideas with him," Ammons said. "He's also gained a lot of respect."

Ammons, who played high school football at Camden before continuing his college career at Clemson, coached 28 years in the high school football ranks. He was a head coach for 26 years.

Clyburn's coming to AJ marks his first job as a high school football coach.

Ammons said that shouldn't be a concern.

"It's not like he's been away from the game," he said. "Louis has been coaching football and gained some good experience. He's made some good contacts."

Ammons noted Clyburn's s college roommate at Duke University, where he played college football, was Steve Spurrier Jr., a USC assistant and the son of Gamecocks' head coach Steve Spurrier.

"Louis will have some good ideas," Ammons said. He's very enthusiastic.

Clyburn and his wife, Melissa, have three pre-school children. Clyburn said he wanted to make the switch to coaching on the high school level because of the high demand on a college coach.

"I want to be part of the high school education system, coaching and teaching and at the same time affecting young people," Clyburn said. "Although I still have the desire to be an influence in the lives of young people, I need to be more of an influence at home.

Ammons, 177-119-1 with a state title in 1990, likens Clyburn's situation to that of Camden coach Jimmy Neal, who followed Ammons as the Bulldogs' head football coach.

A Camden native, Neal spent the better part of his coaching career in college before making the transition to high school football.

Neal's been a success with an 85-38 mark, including a 15-0 mark and the 2001 Class AAA state football title.

"Louis like Jimmy is a former offensive lineman," Ammons said. "He will come in with ideas about weights, which is a major part of college football, and motivating kids to come out and be part of the program. He will have a plan.

" He will be organized," Ammons said. "I'm sure his team will be well-coached and play with emotion.

Ammons called Clyburn "a good community man."

"When Louis was at Camden, we played AJ and from that, he knows how important football and sports are in that community," Ammons said. "He's a good person.

"Louis is the type of person who is going to do all he can to make his program a success," Ammons said.