The Gordon Lee High School football team will have a new head coach this upcoming football season and it will once again be a former Trojan player.
With Greg Ellis opting for retirement, assistant coach Josh Groce has been hired as the program's new head coach.
Ellis amassed a 52-67 record in two stints with the Trojans. He took over at his alma mater in 1999 and coached for seven seasons, leading the Trojans to the state playoffs six straight times.
His best season came in 2002 when the Navy-and-White won their first nine games of the season and went on to beat Johnson County and Athens Academy to advance to the Class 1A state quarterfinals. Gordon Lee would ultimately fall in the Elite Eight on the road at Hawkinsville, 14-7, in a game that would come down to the final seconds.
Ellis stepped down following the 2005 season, but would return to Gordon Lee 10 years later and served as head coach from 2015-2018.
A three-sport letter-winner at Gordon Lee and the quarterback of the Trojans' last region championship team in 1978, Ellis first served an assistant coach at Gordon Lee from 1989-1992 before moving on to coach at Lenoir City (Tenn.).
"We thank Coach Ellis for his dedication and service to our football program, school and community," Gordon Lee Athletic Director Todd Windham said. "We wish him all the best and honor him for his many years of service. We certainly appreciate everything both he and his family have done for this school."
Groce, a 1999 graduate of Gordon Lee who played under Ellis in Ellis' first year as head coach in Chickamauga, said it was "awesome" to get a chance to be the head coach of his alma mater.
"It's been a 10-year dream of mine to be a head coach," he said. "God's taken me on many different journeys to get me back to here and be able to lead this team."
"We're excited about Josh coming in," Windham added. "He's a local guy that brings a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of knowledge about the game. He's built a rapport with our kids the last couple of years."
After playing for two seasons at Jacksonville State University, Groce spent a year at Ringgold under then-head coach Sean Gray before returning home to Chickamauga. He spent eight seasons with the Trojans, two as the team's defensive coordinator. He left for Trion in 2012 and was the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator for five years before coming back to Gordon Lee once again. He again served as the Trojans' defensive coordinator the past two seasons.
Groce said he has learned different things from each of the head coaches he has worked under.
"Coach Gray had a lot of great energy and Coach Ellis was really a players' coach. He had the ability to form relationships with his players," Groce explained. "From Coach (Kevin) McElhaney, I learned a lot about organization and working and communicating with the other coaches (on the staff) and (Trion) Coach (Justin) Brown was very similar to Coach McElhaney in the way he was organized. He's a big motivator that brings a lot of energy and really allows his coaches to coach.
"I'm planning on taking a little piece of all of them to help me guide my team, but I'm also going to put my own spin on it."
Groce added that biggest thing will be earning relationships with his players.
"One of the quotes I have written down is 'they won't care how much you know until they know how much you care'," he explained.