Messenger file photo by Mike Goodson
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
After 32 years of high school coaching, including the past four as Westbrook Christian head football coach and athletic director, Drew Noles recently decided to hand over his whistle and clipboard.
Noles said that while he had no timetable of how long he would coach at Westbrook, he said that he “just knew it was time” to step down following the Warriors’ final game on October 28. Under Noles from 2019 to 2022, Westbrook went 27-17 overall and twice qualified for the state playoffs. The Warriors went 5-5 this past season
“It’s something that my wife Michele and I had been talking about, so this was an emotional season for me,” he said. “Obviously, we didn’t finish like we wanted to on the field, but I can honestly say that I’ve never had a team that loved one another the way this group did. Some of the things we experienced off the field this year were life-changing, and ultimately that’s what I hope that what we’re remembered for. I love the relationships I’ve developed with these young men. One of the biggest opportunities I had was the ability to work with so many great players and so many great coaches.”
Noles appreciated the fact that he was a part of Westbrook’s exponential growth over the past few years in terms of the phy-sical campus and the student body.
“Westbrook offers a lot when you look at what the school’s values are and what its intent is,” he said. “There a lot of positive things about public schools, but it’s special when you come in every day and everything is Christ-centered, from first thing in the morning until the end of the day. There’s a whole lot of people right now looking for a [school] that still has Christ as its center. The leadership here has been phenomenal with Brody [Croyle] and Mrs. Greer and now Mrs. Neal. They’re great Christian leaders, and it’s been a really good fit.”
Noles began his assistant football coaching career at Boaz at the age of 17, became a defensive coordinator at 19 and was named head coach of his alma mater when he was 26. He served as head baseball and head basketball coach for over 20 years. Noles’ Boaz teams went 80-63. He took the Pirates to the state playoffs eight times in 13 seasons.
In six seasons at Etowah, Noles guided the Blue Devils to 52-19 record (including a 34-6 mark in region play), two region titles and two appearances in the state quarterfinals. He also was the school’s tennis coach for five years.
“Obviously as a coach I know you can never make everyone happy, but I hope everybody knows that we tried to do things with class and that we genuinely cared more about the kids off the field than we did on the field. I’ve never had a player go on to the NFL, but I can tell you that 100 percent of them went on to become men. I think there’s a big difference in a coach who is a Christian and a Christian coach, and I was never one to leave my faith at the gate when I walk out on the field.”
Noles said that his coaching mentors throughout his career were too many to mention for fear of leaving someone out.
“They may not have known it, but I watched those guys a lot as a young coach,” said Noles. “I appreciate those guys for allowing me to lean on them and count on. The longer you coach, the more you realize that it’s not always about the scoreboard. It’s about doing things the right way, regardless of the outcome. That way, you can lay your head down on the pillow at night and know that you did the best you could and know that eventually things will turn out for the best.”
As a head football coach for the past 22 years, Noles appreciated the sacrifices his wife Michele made for him and their sons, Andy and Will.
“Michele has only missed a couple of games out of all this time, and she had to find a lot of those away fields without a GPS. It takes a special woman to be a coach’s wife, and she’s been awesome. I’m sure that God’s got another chapter for our lives, and we’re going to trust what He has in store for us.”
Westbrook Administrator Rachel Neal described Noles as a true Christian man with impeccable character.
“Not only did Drew re-invigorate our football program, he trained the boys under his leadership to walk with integrity,” she said. “We say here at Westbrook that we train warriors for Christ, and Drew did that in the school and out on the field. He is an incredible man, and we were blessed to have him with us at Westbrook. He’ll be greatly missed, that’s for sure.”
Neal said there was no timetable to hire Noles’ replacement, noting that she and the school administration will seek the ideal candidate.
“We’re working together, and we’re going to do our due diligence. We’ll just see what where the Lord leads us in that direction. We want to make sure that we bring in the right person who will continue to lead our football program while being a good fit for our school. So we want to make sure we that take our time and do it in the best way possible.”
Brodie Croyle, Executive Director of the Big Oak Boys Ranch and a former quarterback at Westbrook Christian, the University of Alabama and the National Football League, echoed Neal’s thoughts on Noles’ impact at 100 Westminister Drive in Rainbow City.
“Drew Noles definitely left a mark on our school,” he said. “He was a culture setter for us. As good as a football coach that he is, Drew is also one of the finest men I’ve ever been around. Everything he did here, he did it the right way.”