FORT STOCKTON, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – Fort Stockton head coach, Jeremy Hickman knows a thing or two about panther football and was eager as ever when he was offered the head coaching job just this year.

The long time panther spoke about his time in Fort Stockton and what made him return to his roots.

“I went to high school here as a 1999 grad of Fort Stockton High School, and it’s kind of a surreal deal for me because my granddad was the head coach here in the sixties,” grinned Hickman. “And I’ll tell you, getting into coaching, my goal and one of the goals or dream would be, to work towards put myself in a position to learn some of the best from the best, so that when the opportunity arose ever for a chance to be the head coach at Fort Stockton, I was I was ready.”

Hickman basically lives and breathes panthers football.

After growing up and going to high school in Fort Stockton, he said he knew someday, he would be back for more, no matter what.

“My goal was to be here. So in my mind, yes, I knew I was going to be back here as the head football coach. When that was going to present itself, I couldn’t tell you. I figured that it’s just a matter of time for me to learn enough to be able to put myself in a position to come back here. So, yes, I did expect to be here one day or another. I was hoping I would say, I was hoping, to be back.

That goal Hickman said has been in the works for almost 20 years. Finally, it came true and for him, the reason was clear.

“I would say that the kids here are the reason I came back. Being a Panther, my wife was a graduate of Fort Stockton, being a prowler, a chance to come back and mentor these kids and give them some some tools to help them be successful life. Fort Stockton’s a great community, we have great kids,” mentioned Hickman. “And I want them to understand that just because you’re from Fort Stockton doesn’t mean you can’t go out and do great things, you can’t go out and be something great or something special.”

He added that his position gives him a chance to really impact these young athletes, “But the platform of a coach has an opportunity to really change lives. And so the kids here, being from here, being a panther, having coaches in the past mentor me and really opened my eyes to setting goals and accomplishing them, that’s the reason why I came back, to coach these kids and to give them life lessons and teach them things that are going to help them be successful in life, outside of sports. It’s so much bigger than sports.”

Hickman said his goal as the new panthers head coach isn’t focused solely on their success on the field, but on how he can improve the young boys to be upstanding men in their future.

“Our kids understand that they’re working for Fort Stockton. And that’s why on the back of our game based services For FS. We understand that we are representing them not only on the field but off the field as well,” Hickman said with a smile. “We’re trying to develop leaders on the field. We’re also trying to develop leaders in the school. And that in turn is learning to be a leader, will help them outside of here, be leaders in life, leaders of their family, leaders of a community, leaders of business, leaders of teams, whatever their life aspirations is. It’s just learning to be a servant and learning to develop those skills, to fight for bigger things.”

Hickman said his vision is focused on helping the community but with the emphasis of continuing to build the program on the field as well.

He urged, “I want them to be tough, physical, competitive and kind of no child. I want them to go out there and get after it and give their very best. But I also want them to understand that it’s a process that hard work has to happen. And so if you want to be the best, you’ve got to do what the best do. And the best people work hard every day. There’s no time for for having a bad day. When you do, you’ve got to be able to dig in a little bit deeper and get after.”

And seeing the progression, and his team respond to his leadership so early, makes him realize he made the right choice coming home.

“Oh, your heart’s full, your heart’s full to where you feel like, you know, they’re really believing in what we’re talking about and they see it come to fruition. It builds trust when they see that he knows, like, hey, they trust what we’re doing and they and they really believe that what we’re doing works,” he smirked.

When he got the call to become the Panthers head coach, Hickman said it affected his entire family, in the best way.

“I did have a moment of like emotions rush through me and my family did as well. My youngest daughter was really crying a lot. She was overtook with emotion because she was at work, so I had to call her and let her know before she heard anywhere else. But my wife was very excited for me, and it was, we didn’t even sleep that night. It was just a lot of excitement and emotion, just knowing that you set a goal, you know, almost 20 years ago, you worked diligently to learn from the best and understanding that there’s an end goal there and to have it, come to fruition. It was pretty amazing for them to see that they’ve been through the whole process with me and it was good to see that.”

Overall, Hickman made sure to say how grateful he is for the community that raised him and continues to shape him.

“The small town, 5 minutes to work every day, 3 minutes not having to deal with traffic, humidity, but also just the support from the community has been fantastic. I’ve kind of forgotten about how embraced or how engaged the community is with our athletic programs. And so it’s been fantastic to be back. It’s been tremendous to feel the support and the excitement among the community. And it’s just been a surreal deal for me to be here and be in this role, serving the community Fort Stockton.”