Full Interview With Garrett Looney


Garrett Looney, the new head football coach, on campus Jan. 24 to meet with players, boosters and coaches, sat down with MV Media reporter Molly Houser for a one-on-one interview.

Q: If you could start by introducing yourself.

A: My name is coach Lenny Garrett Looney. I’ll be the head football coach here and also be teaching in the building next year.

Q: How long have you been a coach?

A: I’ve been a varsity coach for 15 years, most recently, I was the head coach at Eaglecrest High School last season. I was a player in high school and in college. I played at Columbine High School and went to a state championship, then played in college at UNC for a few years on scholarship and then got right into football coaching. Now I’ve been a varsity coach for 15 years.

Q: How did you hear about the football position here at Vista?

A: I’ve known about this [position] forever. Obviously, I was at ThunderRidge [High School] for a long time as a coach, so I’ve known [about] Vista for a very long time, and when I saw that Coach Cash decided to not coach anymore, it was a great opportunity, and knowing the school so well, I jumped on it. I was fortunate enough to be offered the job, so I’m very excited about it.

Q: What are you going to be teaching here?

A: That’s to be determined. Right now, I can’t answer that because I think that’s still in the works. I will be in the building full time. Under what role of a job, I’m not quite sure yet.

Q: You mentioned UNC, did you play during [your time there?]

A: I played up there for a couple years, got my degree in special education and then I later got my administrator degree. So I have a teaching degree and principal’s license for administration as well.

Q: So going into the next season, what are your plans? How do you plan to improve?

A: I feel like the plan is there’s going to be a lot of change. Things are going to look a lot different than they’ve looked in the last couple years. There’s going to be some new expectations. Hard work, from day one, is going to be the expectation for everybody in the classroom, on the field and all that. So really, I’m just trying to get the culture back and the climate back to where it’s been in the past and where it is with other sports. We need to have that same thing for football. It’s my job to get us competitive again every Friday night and give the fans in the school something to cheer about, and I’m going to do my best to try to get us to that point.

Q: When are you guys going to start practicing?

A: We will start as soon as possible. We’re in the process of putting together our varsity staff right now. Once that’s done, we’ll start doing stuff in the spring and then it’s pretty much full go all the way through the fall once the summer starts.

Q: What is a message you’re planning to bring the players?

A: I think the biggest message is everything’s about looking forward. We’re not looking back. Every day is going to be a challenge to get better at everything we do. We can’t worry about what happened in the past. We’re about today and tomorrow. That’s it. If we focus on that and focus on positivity, I think we’re going to have a lot of success next year.

Q: Why do you think football is an important sport to a school?

A: I think football really builds a lot of life skills for kids. Teamwork is huge. Obviously, you’re going to have to do that your whole life, but going to battle with your friends, getting through adversity and fighting through things that you learn in football makes you a better person in life. There’s a lot of life lessons you can learn from football.

Q: How are you planning on re-encouraging the student body here about our football team?

A: I think that’s going to be the challenge for the kids. We’ve got to put a product out there that the school can be proud of. It doesn’t mean we have to win every game, but it means we have to compete in every game and do the very best we can. As long as the school, the community and the students see that I think it’s going to be a lot easier to support, but we will have to put in the work. It’s up to the kids to put in the work and get the fans to buy in and be excited to be there. That also transfers to the classroom, the hallways, and the community. You have to be doing a job and be a good person that people want to support, so that’s going to be the key.

Q: You graduated high school in 2000 at Columbine, and I wanted to ask about the shooting. How has that impacted you as a teacher, a person and a coach?

A: Sure. So I was the quarterback on the football team when the shooting happened, so obviously it was a very impactful day for everybody, but for us specifically, we were put under a microscope by the national media saying the football players were part of the reason that terrible thing happened. We were fighting through that and showing that it had nothing to do with us football players. It was just a terrible tragedy, but really, that tragedy led me to become a coach and a teacher. I saw adults, after the tragedy, really become good friends of mine and become people that you wouldn’t expect teachers or coaches to be able to be. For example, my principal came to my wedding and the birth of my children. My head football coach and I still talk to this day. I realized the importance of relationships with people and that’s my goal as a coach and a teacher: to build relationships that last beyond, you know, high school. They go on forever. That was really what got me to be in front of you guys today.

Q: In spite of the shooting, your team won the 1999 Football State Championship game. Did it feel like less of a victory?

A: You know, I think it really gave a positive to the community that it needed desperately. Through a tragedy, great things can still come, and our football team’s ability to then give something positive back to the community was huge. It’s something I don’t think anybody will ever forget in that community. It was a very impactful deal, and I was very happy to be a part of the championship. But really, it makes you value life that much more when you go through something like that. You own every day you have because you never know when it’s going to be done. I think that’s probably the lesson I learned more than anything from the matter.

Q: From that Championship, your team will be put in the CHSAA Hall of Fame.

A: In April, so that’s a really cool accomplishment for sure.

Q: Absolutely. How is that success going [to impact] your coaching? Do you have set goals for the team to be successful in that way?

A: Sure. I think that the biggest goals for the team, again, is to get better every day, period, on and off the field. It’s not about wins and losses. It’s going to come based on how we prepare. They have to understand that it’s not just about summer, not just about fall, but about right now. What are you doing today to get better? What are you doing for your teammate to get better? Do you trust each other enough to go to go compete with each other? That’s the message from day one.  

Q: I have some questions about Coach Cash. I interviewed Coach Cash when he submitted his letter of resignation. Throughout the interview he mentioned a “toxicity in the program,” but he would not specify to me what that toxicity was, so I was wondering, have you had any sort of conversations with him about it? Are you worried about this toxicity?

A: No, I’m not. I would say that’s probably more reason why it’s time for a change. I think that when people do things a certain way and it’s been the same way for so long sometimes it’s time to just move on and do something different. I’m excited about what we can do moving forward and hopefully avoid the toxicity that may or may not exist. I hadn’t really heard that, but when you’re a one-and-nine football team that’s tough. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but I’m excited for the challenge to try to get this back to where the school has been before and to compete with other great sports programs that are already here that are winning championships and competing every year for championships. That’s what the goal is for the football team and it really starts now.

Q: Do you have a set out plan already for this change? What does that change look like through the team?

A: I think it’s going to be from, obviously, a new head coach, but also there’s going to be a lot of different assistant coaches that these kids have never seen or met yet. The offense is going to look completely different, the defense will look completely different and really all levels of the program will. We’re going to look different. So the change is going to be honestly everything that we do. From the weight room and the practice, to what summer is going to look like, it’s all going to be different, so I hope that the excitement will be built up.

Q: Is there anything else that you want people to know about the upcoming season, about you and about what our football team is going to look like going forward?

A: Sure. I think just the excitement. I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to start. I’m excited to get to know the student body, the administration, the teachers, all that. We can start building something fresh, and I am excited to get to know the kids more than anything because they’re the ones that we’re going to be going to battle with. [It’s important] to start building those relationships, so [I am] very excited to be here.