SEARCY — When the next football season rolls around, Harding University’s Bison football team not only will have new players; it will also have a new co-offensive coordinator — Matt Underwood.
The university announced its change to the coaching staff on Jan. 8.
Underwood will replace Kevin Chism, who is moving back to private business but will still serve as a volunteer offensive line coach, according to Harding University.
“I grew up in Arkansas, and I’m excited to come back to the state,” Underwood said.
Underwood is a Searcy native and a Harding alumnus. He played quarterback and on special teams for the Harding football team from 1998 to 2002.
“I always dreamed of being a football player,” Underwood said. “I played peewee football and played football at Harding Academy [in Searcy]. I played for Bill Barton, who won over 200 games; then I played for Tommy Shoemaker my senior year.”
Underwood said he had a good season his senior year of high school and was given the opportunity to play football for Harding University.
“I played quarterback and graduated in 2003,” he said. “I was a career backup and stuck with it. I learned lessons about [having a] work ethic and how to be a great teammate.”
His experience playing college football provided Underwood with an opportunity to work immediately after finishing college.
He was the offensive coordinator at Harding Academy in Memphis from 2004-2009. After his stint there, he moved to Jackson, Tenn., where he was the head coach at Jackson Christian School.
“I’m excited to come back to Harding [University],” Underwood said.
Head coach Ronnie Huckeba said he looks forward to having someone on his staff whom he coached as a player.
“I think very highly of him,” Huckeba said of Underwood. “I’ve known Matt since he was in junior high at Harding Academy [in Searcy]. He was a team captain [at Harding University] and was an exemplary football player. He’s just a really special young man.”
Underwood looks forward to bonding with the team at Harding University.
“It’s a lot more than football. It’s more about doing things the right way, and we see our jobs as more of a mission than a job,” he said. “I really appreciate the opportunity to come back. I’m excited to be there.”
Huckeba said Underwood has a great reputation in the football community.
“Since he’s been coaching, his reputation is off the charts,” Huckeba said. “He’s very passionate in his coaching, and I’m confident it’s going to carry over into his recruiting.”
Underwood said his main goal this season is to make an impact on the players on the team.
Huckeba said he looks forward to working with Underwood this season.
“He loves the Lord and will be a great example to our guys,” Huckeba said.
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.