Same man, new title: Barrow bringing continuity to first preseason camp at helm

Published 5:16 pm Saturday, July 29, 2017

NEDERLAND — The office is the same, but the look is slightly different.

At the corner behind Monte Barrow’s right shoulder are his own sun hats. On the desk behind him is a photo of Barrow hugging his family when he was announced as Nederland’s new head football coach and athletic director on Feb. 27.

For 24 years, the office belonged to Larry Neumann. Barrow, a 1986 Nederland graduate, was one of his assistant coaches each of those years and his offensive coordinator the past 18.

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“Being with him all those years makes it easier from an athletic director’s standpoint,” Barrow said. “We have a great staff throughout our entire district. Above that, we have great kids in all our programs. It’s not a chore at all to do some of the things you have to do, especially during the spring when you have so many sports going on. You try to run an offseason program at the same time, and you have little things you need to handle.

“Very few things come through this office that are negative. Most things are positive, and that makes it easy.”

Soon, football season will dawn on the Bulldogs. But it won’t just be another season.

The first day of preseason camp for Nederland is Aug. 7. The Nederland sideline will look slightly different on game nights because Neumann won’t patrol it. A new era of Nederland football is beginning.

The atmosphere within the program is nothing new.

Said 12th-year offensive line coach Jae Stoker: “With the timing of the hire, I thought coach Barrow of trying to keep things the same but also put his own stamp on things, whereas I’ve been on different staffs where there’s been turnover, and when you bring a new guy on, they change the atmosphere of a whole program. That usually happens with a losing program. Why change something that’s worked for so long?

“But I also think he’s done some things — as with any new hire — that brings a little fresh air to the program. It’s going to be fun to see how he puts his stamp having a whole year.”



For a team that posted a 186-93-1 record, won eight district championships (three outright) and advanced to the state quarterfinals four times (with one semifinal appearance) in the past 24 seasons, the pursuit for more success at Nederland is no different from Neumann’s watch to Barrow’s, as two of his assistant coaches attest.

“Coach Neumann, undoubtedly, was the spearhead of what we did, but he leaned heavily on coach Barrow and my dad as coordinators,” wide receivers coach Bryan Spell said. “A lot of what we did came from coach Barrow, a lot of ideas coach Neumann implemented with his style. Stylistically, it’s different, but the substance is the same to me as what it’s been for the last 18 years I coached here because of how close coach Barrow worked with coach Neumann.

“They had different styles. They’re different men. But what they value and what’s important to them, I don’t think that’s changed.”

Spell was a quarterback when Barrow started at Nederland. He credits Barrow — as well as his father, defensive coordinator Delbert Spell, and Neumann — as “profound” influences on his own career.

“I think his knowledge has changed, but as far as a person, he’s the same man I played for in 1993 and ’94,” Bryan Spell said of Barrow. “He’s been the same, it seems like, ever since. Obviously, we’ve all grown in the professional and learned new ideas and different ways of approaching things. But he’s the same guy as he was back then to me.”



Barrow, who turns 50 on Oct. 5, acted as head coach when Neumann retired Jan. 31 and immediately put his name in the hat for the permanent coach/AD role. He said he really didn’t know he was the man for the job until the Nederland school board officially promoted him 27 days later.

The assistant coaches, however, supported Barrow during the transition, he said.

“… But above that was our focus on whatever happened when this job was decided, the kids we had up to that point were going to get the best training and coaching possible,” he said. “We couldn’t cheat them. The coaches were very supportive. The players bought into it as well. It wasn’t every day [their] asking, ‘Who’s going to be our coach?’ They just went to work.””

Barrow’s promotion allowed the Bulldogs some continuity in their operations. The only change on staff has been the addition of Jay Stone as an offensive assistant.

The offensive coordinator role has not been relinquished. “The change there didn’t make sense for our kids to change that late,” Barrow said.

Barrow’s main focus among his players has been on maintaining chemistry.

“We want to make sure we build something that has lasted through the summer, and when we come back, we’re not starting over,” he said.

With camp still a few days away, Barrow has an idea who’ll start on opening night at home against 4A Division II champion West Orange-Stark.

“You may not know exactly, where they fit until they put the pads on, especially on the defensive side of it and offensive line-wise, which for us, offensive line is a big target for us,” Barrow said. Nederland lost three starters on the line from 2016 to graduation, including Rice freshman Corbin Smith.

“We had quite a few kids back on defense, so it was plugging in the ones who need to be plugged in to fit the schemes we do,” he said. “We don’t run a scheme and make kids fit it. We make the scheme fit the kids. It will be fun to watch that unfold as we put the pads on.”

Meanwhile the unfolding of a season under a new head coach at Nederland is growing in anticipation.

“We all want to do a good job for coach Barrow,” Stoker said. “He was an assistant with us for a long time and we were all happy when we got the job. Maybe it’s a little more added pressure on us to say, ‘Look, this was the right guy for the job.’”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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