Frederick Burnette’s coaching breakthrough was subtle.
After coaching receivers in 2007, Burnette was approached by Stratford head coach Jason Smith before a 7-on-7 camp. He wanted Burnette to call plays.
Points came in bundles — around 35 per game, Burnette remembers — and that was all Smith needed to see.
“He said, ‘Let’s see what you got,’” Burnette said. “From then on, I called plays.”
Burnette beefed up his resume by overseeing school record-setting offenses at Stratford and later Maplewood, which helped convince McGavock to hire him as its head football coach last week.
McGavock last had a winning season in 2015.
“(Burnette’s) going to put some excitement back in those stands,” said Hillsboro head coach Anthony Brown, who played with Burnette at Tennessee State and coached with him at Maplewood. “He uses a lot of ingenuity in his plays. Offensively, he’s excellent.”
Burnette’s 2008 offense at Stratford produced more than 2,300 yards passing. After a stop at Whites Creek, he took over Maplewood’s offense in 2012 and helped groom a relatively unknown freshman quarterback named Bobo Hodges.
Hodges improved each year and took off as a senior, throwing for more than 3,000 yards and totaling nearly 4,000 yards of offense with 40-plus touchdowns. He became the Class 4A Mr. Football runner-up after the Panthers started 1-1 and reeled off 11 straight victories into the state semifinals.
“I like to throw the ball,” said Burnette, who remains in TSU’s record books because of his 99-yard reception while playing there. “But whatever’s working, we’ll do it. If we have a team we can overpower, I’ll run the ball.
“But I always can find a kid who can get close to 1,000 yards receiving.”
Burnette didn’t give up on his coaching goals even after Haywood High School, his alma mater in Brownsville, went with another head coach when Burnette applied for the job in 2009. He stayed in the Metro Nashville Public Schools system and nurtured his other dream as an educator.
He’ll continue serving as dean of students in McGavock’s Academy of Hospitality and Finance. His mom, Wilma, was a teacher in his hometown of Brownsville. His dad, Freddie, became a substitute history teacher after retiring from a career at Procter and Gamble.
“Going to my mom’s school after leaving my school and waiting to go home, I saw the things she did,” Burnette said. “It was always something I wanted to do too. I love sports and it was always another avenue I saw to help kids besides teaching.”
He’ll juggle two jobs now.
When he got word from McGavock that he’d been hired, his mind immediately was filled with ideas and to-do lists. He’s in the process of building a staff.
His first team meeting was less about offense and more about building a family.
“When I met the student-athletes, I told them I’d treat them like my sons. I still communicate with guys from Stratford, Maplewood and Whites Creek. I told them, ‘You guys are going to be in that situation as well.’ I’ll have your best interests in mind,” Burnette said. “Those guys were really excited about that in that meeting.”