• John Macon Gillespie

New Houston HC Ty Hardin Talks Toppers

The Houston Hilltopper football program reached a new high in 2015. Coming into the season they had only won a playoff game once before. Last season they not only won a playoff game for just the second time in program history, but they doubled their playoff win total by winning two.

With the taste of success still fresh on their tongues they are a hungry bunch. They are attacking the offseason extremely hard and that will include bringing a group of players to compete at the Fortius Project combine at ICC on April 30th. The goal is simple, they just want to get better.

“The Fortius combine is great for all the local players to get recognized and show their talents. They usually do not have have the opportunity to do so,” Houston HC Ty Hardin told SES Mississippi. “Our guys are stoked about coming and competing against some guys that they will face and might not face. I’m glad the guys have something to work towards.”

“It excites me for my guys. I want them to have the best opportunities to improve themselves and their future. I expect my guys to put up some good numbers as a whole. Our guys might not be your biggest division one prospects but they compete just as hard and will put up some good speed numbers.”

On April 12th, Hardin was named the new head coach at Houston. Being hired to lead his alma mater, as well as the town where he was born and raised, obviously holds great merit for the former Hilltopper defensive coordinator.

“I’m blessed to have an opportunity such as this. Words cannot express how excited I am, not only for me but also for the community and our program. I means so much to be in my hometown because it holds a special place in my heart. It means so much to be able to coach a group of guys that are Houston boys as I am myself,” He explained.

Hardin has been at Houston for four seasons, spending two as the defensive coordinator. In his stint the Toppers are 26-23. He has coached the likes of Chris Jones, a 2013 Mississippi State signee, and Denver McQuary, a 2016 MSU baseball signee. Hardin has seen the Houston football program rise in his time and the opportunity to go even higher is what drives his players.

“Respect is earned in this sport and profession. We will just have to do what we do to earn it. We feed off of that and our players always love an opportunity to earn some respect,” Hardin said.

“Right now is the best time to be a Topper. We are about to have a first round draft pick in a few months in Christ Jones. We have the pick king and hopeful future MLB star in Denver McQuary. That is huge for our future. The younger guys have bought in and see that a person from Houston, Mississippi, has just as good of a chance at stardom as anyone else.”

The community rallies around the team and there is a bond that connects the two that you don’t find just anywhere. That bond, Hardin feels, is special and a major reason in the recent success.

“Houston is a blue collar town and luckily enough our players have that trait about them,” Hardin said. “The town deserves a winner and these players deserve to be winners and that is a direct correlation.”

“As you saw in the playoff game(against Noxubee County), the town came out in droves and believed in the team no matter who they were playing. I think it says just as much about the community and town as it does our program. These guys love their town and have pride in being a Topper.”

With that winning taste still fresh on their minds and a long offseason to get better, Houston is working to build on last season’s success. The building blocks are in place and the players are hungry to win. Hardin says winning is all that is on the players’ minds looking toward this Fall.

“Pride will be the difference in this team. The 2012, 2014 and 2015 teams laid the foundation for us and this team wants to take it further,” Hardin said. “Confidence and discipline will be the reason, if we make it further into the playoffs. If our younger talent can play with maturity and confidence while stepping into big roles that we lost then the sky is the limit.”

Hardin has seen the evidence and the hard work being put in first hand. He says at Houston they have to do things a bit differently than the way its done at other schools.

“The players’ mentality is we have to do what no one else is doing if we want to win.,” He said. “The main thing I have seen is they are doing whatever it takes. No matter how hard the workout, drill, conditioning or obstacle us coaches have put in their way they have done whatever to win what’s in front of them. I’ve seen this team compete more than past Houston teams during the offseason.”

“In the past Houston teams would always follow a good or great season with a subpar one. We’ve emphasized going forward and they have bought in.”

With the program now under his direction, Hardin has a vision for what he wants the program to be about. It’s clear that his program will be about more than just football. Four core values will serve as the base for his program and they are: family, toughness, accountability and discipline.

“The community will be a big part of this football program,” Hardin offered. “Our main goal is more about preparing these young men for life more than anything else.”

“The wins will come. Next, our goal is to win the division and win a state championship. To bring this school and community something it has never seen but has always been capable of.”

**Photo by Stacy Parker.

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