Photo by Barry Stephenson.
Hoover coach Josh Niblett talks to his team during the Oak Mountain game on Sept. 11. The Bucs won 17-14, giving Niblett his 100th win as Hoover head football coach.
Hoover football coach Josh Niblett doesn’t get too caught up in personal milestones.
So it’s really no surprise he deflects attention from his 100th win at Hoover, a 17-14 victory over Oak Mountain on Sept. 11.
He gives the credit to the players, coaches, community and his family.
“I’ve had a lot of great people around here that have allowed me an opportunity to be successful, and I’m very blessed by that,” said Niblett, who has a career record of 167-42. “But No. 1, to God be the glory. God has blessed me tremendously as a coach. He’s put me in the right situations doing the right things, and I’m just trying to honor him. I think that’s what was neat about it was for me to wake up every day and God has given me a purpose and a plan. Coaching is a ministry for me. And that’s the way I see it.”
He was presented with a plaque commemorating the landmark win.
“It means everything to me for everybody else that allowed it to have an opportunity to happen. I’m just a small part of that. It goes under my name, but there’s a lot of great players that’s played for me, a lot of great coaches who’ve put in a lot of grind around here to give us an opportunity to be as successful as we’ve been. A great support staff, my wife and my kids at home, that have allowed me an opportunity to do my job,” Niblett said.
“And it’s not about me, that’s kind of why I’ve deflected it, I haven’t even wanted to talk about it. That’s not just me … maybe when I’m 82 years old and I finally stop coaching, I might look back on it and say that was neat.”
Reaching a milestone such as 100 wins is usually accomplished through equal measures of longevity and success.
Perhaps more remarkable than the 100 wins is that Niblett is in the midst of just his eighth season, and against his current total of 102 wins (as of Oct. 22, just before the Hewitt-Trussville game), he has just 10 losses. That’s a remarkable – make that ridiculous – winning percentage of 91 percent. That’s competing, usually, in the toughest region in the toughest class in the state, plus taking on all-comers from out of state. Not to mention ripping through the playoffs with a 31-3 mark, a 91.1 percent success rate. Or the three straight state championships, four in all, and three other runner-up finishes.
Truth is, those 10 losses drive him more than the 101 wins, he said.
“Somebody told me the other day, ‘Y’all got to lose sometime.’ We don’t have to lose anytime,” Niblett said.
“Those (losses) craw me every day – there’s those two state championships we lost by one point, there’s the other state championship we lost by three points. We could just as easily have won seven (state championships) here and won them every year I’ve been here. But we didn’t.
“I fear failure more than I enjoy the celebration of success. That’s why I wake up every day, and that’s why I prepare myself because I don’t want to fail. Some people wake up every day and they want to be successful. I don’t see it that way, and I think that’s what drives me, that’s what I try to get to drive my staff and my players – fear of failure will drive you to where need to go the rest of your life.”
Needless to say, the two losses this season to region opponents Spain Park (for the first time) and Vestavia Hills (breaking a seven-game winning streak) have his competitive nature in overdrive.
“We can’t sit around and lick our wounds,” Niblett said. “It’s never fun when you lose, and around here we’ve not lost very much, and some people don’t know how to take it.
“I want to make sure we all stick together in this. I’m very fortunate and blessed to get to do what I do, and this is where leadership shows, when you go through situations like this. This is when the kids look to you, and I’ve got to be strong, make sure I put us in the right direction. That’s my job.”
The Bucs are 6-2 at this writing, and a lock for a playoff spot. That’s great most places, not good enough at Hoover.
“I’m a competitor,” Niblett said. “I don’t take it very well. I take it personal. But at the same time, I serve an awesome God, I’ve got an awesome wife and kids, and they know how much it means to me. And these kids mean the world to me. I don’t want to see them fail. I want to see them be successful. I don’t ever want, under my watch, to not be doing what we’re supposed to be doing. So it has been wearing on me a little bit.
“But I’ll tell you what it’s done, because no matter what, win lose or draw, I’m always trying to figure out new ways to get us better. I’ve always found a way to get our kids to play even harder, and now I’ve got to figure out that thing for this group.”
There’s no question that the original foundation for success at then-Berry High was laid by the incomparable Bob Finley. It’s also indisputable that Rush Propst took the program to another level.
But Niblett has actually raised the bar. His winning percentage is the best in school history. Will he someday surpass Bob Finley’s total of 198 wins, which was accomplished over 26 seasons?
“I don’t know, man,” Niblett said. “I don’t know what God has planned for me, and I don’t know what God has planned for this program. I know this – I just wake up every day and lock in and focus on what I’m doing, so blessed to be where I’m at. I can’t think of a better place to be than where I’m at. I love what I’m doing.
“I’d love to get to 198 here. I’d love to get to 200. But to ever be mentioned in the same sentence as Bob Finley, it’s definitely an honor.”