North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

January 16, 2013

Wildcat of a different color: Keith Register leaves Fultondale, takes head coaching job at Hayden

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

— If everything goes according to plan, Fultondale High head football coach Keith Register will be sitting in a ballroom in downtown Montgomery at about noon Wednesday, waiting to see if the best player he’s ever coached — ArDarius Stewart — wins the Mr. Football award as the state’s best player.

About an hour prior to that — again, if everything goes according to plan — a group of people in a board room in Oneonta will hire Register as the next head coach at Hayden High.

Register will replace Steve Kerby, who coached four seasons at Hayden and left after a 2-8 campaign in 2012.

Hayden principal Allen Hargett has had Register on his radar for some time. The two men attend the same church, and have coached together elsewhere.

“He was in the top three or four candidates last time,” Hargett said about the opening that went to Kerby in 2009. “When I went to J.B. Pennington, he was there in the late 90s. He and Kim [Hargett, Allen’s brother] coached together at Mortimer Jordan. I know his character.”

It will be a rebuilding job for Register at Hayden, but he’s been through worse. Things were so bad when he took his first head coaching job at Fultondale in 2004, the team didn’t even finish the season — he had so few healthy players left, he forfeited the last three games.

And though he still has a losing record overall of 47-51, the last four years have been much better: three playoff appearances, with two berths in the Class 2A quarterfinal round, and even a No. 1 ranking in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll.

Having a talent like Stewart on the roster certainly didn’t hurt. But Register’s reputation for turning the Wildcats’ program around caught the attention of several other school administrators over the years.

Now, with Stewart headed for Tuscaloosa to play for Alabama, Register has another turnaround project on his hands.

Register told his Fultondale players on Monday. It was a time of mixed emotions.

“We’ve helped raise a lot of those guys,” Register said. “But nine years is a long time to be with any one program these days. I want to see what else I can do on another level.”

Without anyone with Stewart’s talent level waiting for him at Hayden — at least, not that he’s uncovered yet — Register will return to the roots of his coaching philosophy.

“Run first, pass second,” Register said. “We have a lot of opportunities there, with a lot of support and a ton of kids coming out. Figuring out how to get them all playing time will be quite a challenge.”