Harold 'Gator' Hoskins hired as Eastside football coach
Eastside High School has named Harold "Gator" Hoskins as its next head football coach.
"My number one priority is turning this program around by instilling a winning culture in these players on the field, in the classroom and in the community," said Hoskins, as he watched an informal spring practice Monday at Eastside. "I'm going to teach them how to play hard and the importance for playing for each other and the Eastside community."
Eastside will not have a spring football game this year.
Instilling pride in the players for having the opportunity to wear the orange and green Eastside uniform will come easy to Hoskins who is a member of Eastside's class of 2010. He starred at quarterback and safety for Eastside under longtime head coach Kent Johnson, whom Hoskins said he called daily seeking advice about how to go about getting the job.
"I leaned on Coach J every day and he always picked up when I called," Hoskins said.
As a two-way player, Hoskins had a successful career with the Rams and earned all-area and all-state honors in 2008 and 2009 before going on to play for Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, where he eventually transitioned to tight end.
"It means a lot to me being back at Eastside and I am excited to be back here," said Hoskins, whose coaching experience includes a couple of years on the staff at Union County High School in Lake Butler. "I'm extremely excited to be back home."
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Gator Hoskins starred at Marshall
While at Marshall, Hoskins hauled in 99 receptions, good for more than 1,300 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Hoskins was rated the No. 6 fullback entering the NFL draft in 2014. As a star tight end for the Thundering Herd in 2012 and 2013, he led all Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly called Division I-A) tight ends in the number of touchdowns scored by a tight end with 10 and 15, respectively. During his senior year, his 16.4 yards per catch average was second only to Nick O'Leary of Florida State University, who had a 16.9 average.
Hoskins went on to have a one-year career in the NFL, playing 15 games in 2014 after being signed and released by the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks.
The Eastside community and alumni lobbied hard for Hoskins to replace Alex Deleon, who resigned as head coach on April 18. The Rams went 3-17 during Deleon's two-year tenure.
"We wanted to hire someone who is a product of the Eastside High School community and it was clear he was the person the Eastside community and alumni wanted to see lead the program," said Phillip Crutchfield, Eastside's athletic director. "The staff he is forming is going to be very strong in building our program back to the level we need and want it to be."
Hoskins has a passion for Eastside, seeing players succeed on and off the field and especially for Eastside football that Crutchfield said showed the very first time the two talked about Hoskins becoming the coach.
"We all feel good about reestablishing a connection with the Eastside community and alumni," Crutchfield said. "It means a lot when you are loyal, proud of and dedicated to your school."
Getting the program back on track is going to take the entire Eastside community, alumni, supporters and all, Hoskins said.
"We are going to need help from the community," said Hoskins as he pointed out a few players on the practice field that were students of his at Lincoln Middle School where he is currently a math teacher. "It's going to take a village to turn this thing around. The great thing about it for me is that I can directly relate with these players. I can tell them that I used to practice on this field and sit in the same classrooms they are sitting in and that if I made it, they can too."
Eastside's off-season conditioning drills will begin on June 6.
Ainslie Lee contributed to this report.