Elizabethton promotes veteran football assistant to head coach

By Tim Chambers
star staff

  Remember when mom used to prepare your favorite home cooked meal consisting of soup beans, fried potatoes and cornbread? It just didn't get any better this.
  Neither did Elizabethton High School's choice as head football coach. Eddie Pless was chosen to lead the Cyclone football program for the 2004 football campaign.
  Pless is no stranger to Cyclone sports fans. A 1977 graduate of Elizabethton, Pless was a standout athlete for the orange and black. He lettered in football, basketball, baseball and tennis.
  "Eddie is one of the best student-athletes to ever come through Elizabethton High School," stated EHS athletic director Larry Alderson, who introduced Pless in Thursday morning's press conference.
  No one knows Cyclone football any better than Pless. Pless came up through the junior high ranks as a player and coach before entering Elizabethton High School. His dad, the late "Chick Pless," was a standout performer for the Cyclones before Eddie continued the family tradition.
  Pless played quarterback and place kicker for the Cyclones before signing with Carson-Newman on a football scholarship. He finished his football career at ETSU as a place-kicker, where he once kicked a 49-yard field goal in a game.
  Pless took his first coaching job under T.A. Dugger Jr. High football coach Jim Crowe as an assistant while pursing his master's degree at ETSU. Upon completing his master's in 1984, Pless was hired at Unaka Elementary as a teacher and basketball coach in 1985 before going to Unaka High School in 1986 as assistant football coach under Jim Hastings.
  Pless has been associated with Cyclone football for the past 17 years under former head coaches Dave Rider, Jim Perkins and Tommy Jenkins. Pless touched on Jenkins and what he meant to Cyclone football.
  "Today is bittersweet because there would be no need for this if coach Jenkins was healthy," said Pless.
  Pless indicated that Jenkins would remain involved in the football program.
  "We will milk him for everything we can get as long as his health is good," he said. "We would love to have Tommy as a varsity coach but our concern is for his health. It's wonderful when you can have a varsity level head coach in your freshman program. Coach Jenkins has earned that and is part of the Cyclone family."
  Pless added that Steve "Pink" McKinney will be the offensive coordinator, someone he has worked with for years on the Cyclone coaching staff.
  "Pink and I have worked together with the offense for a long time," said Pless. "I was always conservative, while Pink was the creative one."
  Pless added he would name a defensive coordinator after meeting next week as a staff. Pless gave credit to many former coaches for having an impact on him, one being the late Sid Hathaway.
  "I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to play football my senior year," Pless said, "and Coach Hathaway came and found me on the tennis courts and asked me to come out and punt my junior season. I don't know where I would have ended up if it had not been for Coach Hathaway."
  Pless touched on the numbers being down in the junior and senior classes.
  "We have around a 12 players each in our junior and senior classes but the numbers are better in the sophomore and freshman classes," he said.
  Pless indicated his coaching style being different as that of former coach Dave Rider.
  "Coach Rider was a motivator," Pless said. "I remember as a 40-year old man I was ready to strap on the pads and go out and play after one of his speeches."
  "I plan on taking the things I learned from past and present coaches and using them to fit my style. I got to play for Coach Rider and coach under him, and not many people can claim that honor."
  "I can't do it like him, but will use some of the things he taught me as a coach and player to try and continue our winning tradition."
  Pless praised his wife and daughter, giving them thanks for their support toward his new job. "This would not be possible without the support and encouragement of my family," he said. "They have a big hand in me being here today."
  Pless will remain as a computer instructor at T.A. Dugger for the 2004-2005 school year, which should help keep a big interest among Jr. Cyclone football players.
  "Coach McKinney and Greg Hyder spend lots of time at youth games, and I think this helps a great deal," added Pless.
  Pless expressed his excitement as being named Cyclone head football coach and thank all his current coaches for attending the press conference.
  Pless assured the press that the Cyclone teams put on the field would be prepared, and in shape.
  "Elizabethton is a special place," Pless added. "It's been special for the seventy some years they've been playing, and I'm just glad I get to be a part of it."
  Eddie Pless, Cyclone football, soup beans, fried potatoes and cornbread. It just doesn't get any better.