Rick Rhoades’ Coaching Journey Helped Him Positively Impact Lives Around the World

Published 9:12 am Thursday, March 14, 2024

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The following is part of a series of features by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) on the induction class of the 2024 AHSAA Hall of Fame. Rick Rhoades is a Troy University graduate and a National Champion winning former Troy head football coach. 

Rick Rhoades has had a coaching career unlike the typical high school coach. His coaching career not only included high school and collegiate football championships, but he is also one of the few AHSAA Hall of Fame inductees to win a football championship in another country. He is one of the most widely traveled, holding coaching positions with 21 teams at three levels in five countries over the course of his lifetime.

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His impact at the high school level has been long lasting, a chief reason Rhoades will be joining 11 others March 18 who will be inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame as members of the Class of 2024 at the 34th annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet to be held at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Spa Convention Center. Those individuals selected with Rhoades are: football coaches Phillip Lolley and Perry Swindall;  football and track coach Eddie Brundidge; basketball coaches Chucky Miller and Thomas “Mike” Boyd; baseball and football coach Ron Nelson; softball and baseball coach Christopher Goodman; wrestling and football coach Dickey Wright; AHSAA administrator Kimberly Vickers;  and selected from the “Old-Timers’ Division were coach/administrators Frank “Swede” Kendall and Cornell “C.T.” Torrence.

Born in South Bend, Indiana, Rhoades graduated from Broomfield High School in Colorado.  He received a college degree in education from Central Missouri State College in 1970. He also earned a masters’ degree in secondary education from Troy University.

Rhoades began his teaching and coaching career at Floyd Junior High School in Montgomery in 1971, then became one of the state’s youngest head coaches ever the next year when he was hired at Handley High School in Roanoke. Taking over a program that had suffered two straight 2-8 seasons. Handley went 1-8-1 with Rhoades at the helm. He returned to Montgomery after that one year becoming the defensive coordinator, head baseball and head track coach at

Jefferson Davis High School. During his three years at Jeff Davis, the team won three consecutive city championships.  His 1974 track team was third in the state and his overall baseball record was 37-8. He was named Montgomery Area Baseball Coach of the Year in 1975.

In 1976 he moved to Mountain Brook High School as head football coach and athletic director. He was only there for a year, but what a year it was. The Spartans were coming off a state championship season in 1975, and under Rhoades’ tutelage, went 14-0 winning the Claas 4A state championship again. The team was ranked No. 3 in the country by USA Today. Rhoades was both Jefferson County and state Coach of the Year and was selected to coach the South team in the AHSAA North-South All-Star Game. The following year he moved to Davidson High School in Mobile, but again only for a year. Over the next 18 years he would have apply his skills at two high schools and eight colleges. Among those stops was a tenure as assistant and head coach at Troy State University.

From 1985-87 he led the Trojans to a 27-8-1 record. Following 1986’s semifinal loss in the NCAA Division II playoffs, Troy came back with a 12-1-1 record, defeating Portland State, 31-7, for the NCAA Division II national championship.

In 1996, Rhoades returned to the Alabama High School Athletic Association taking the head football coach position at Pelham High School. His 41-19 record included five consecutive state playoff appearances and a school record 10 wins in 1999. He is the second winningest coach at Pelham. He was Shelby County Coach of the Year in 1987 and was head coach of the North team in the AHSAA North-South All-Star Game in 2000.

After a year with the Birmingham Bolts professional team and four years at Delta State College in Mississippi, Rhoades was looking for something totally different. He found it in Austria where he coached the Graz Giants of the Austrian Football League to the European Federation of American Football (EFAF) Cup championship. During his four years in Austria, the Giants played in the Austrian Bowl each year, winning the championship in 2008. They also reached the Eurobowl semifinals four times, and he served as head coach of the Austrian national team for two years.

After a one-year stint as defensive coordinator for his son, Bobby Rhoades, at Kate Duncan Smith DAR High School in Grant, he went to back to Europe. There, he held American-style football coaching positions with the Carlstad Crusaders (Sweden), La Cournueve Flash (France), Wroclaw Panthers (Poland), and Salzburg Ducks (France).

Rhoades has since settled into more domestic opportunities. He was the first president of Pelham City Schools Board, serving for 10 years.  He has also served as the lead analyst and color commentator for the AHSAA TV Game of the Week.

Retired Pelham superintendent Scott Coefield referred to Rhoades as “a Renaissance Man,” saying he “can converse in a wide range of topics including history, public policy, education, etc. But I will never meet anyone who just knows so darn much about football. The man can ‘chalk talk’ football concepts for any era. His coaching stories are endless.”

Mountain Brook High School head football coach Chris Yeager recalled meeting Rhoades when he came to North Alabama as offensive coordinator. Although just hired, he was able to call each offensive lineman, even walk-ons, by name. “He asked us questions about our families, hometowns, and high school coaches,” Yeager aid. “We weren’t the stars of the team, but he must have taken time to study our media guide and memorize who we were before meeting us. We were astonished.”

Yeager said Rhoades had a major impact on his life and coaching career.

“I have always told people the day I met Rick Rhoades was one of the greatest days of my life,” he said. “Coach Rhoades was different because he was authentic and real. He saw the game of football and people in such a different and refreshing way. He had the unique ability to connect with people and make you feel like you were more than just a player and a means win games. He was a great teacher, constantly asking questions, taking notes, and sharing what he’d learned.

“He was an expert but also a student among students. Football happened to be the subject matter, but the real lesson was how to develop the character and life skills to serve and influence others in a significant way.”