Bowling Green better be ready for the McPeeks.
With Fairview’s 40-6 win over Hazard on Friday in the Class A semifinals, coach Nathan McPeek will lead the Eagles into their first state title game.
The Russell High School graduate and former all-conference offensive lineman at Marshall took the head coaching job at Fairview five years ago.
When he did, he made some big promises.
“I thought like all players, that I could play a long time,” McPeek said. “I knew I wanted to coach one day. And when I took this job five years ago I said we were going to try and win a state championship.
“A lot of people laughed at me and said there is no way.”
Before he started his coaching career, Nathan was a college football star looking to make it big in the NFL. He was invited to the Green Bay Packers training camp after his senior season at Marshall, but injuries and bad timing caused him to be cut.
His father, Talmadge McPeek, was in his truck to pick him and drive him back home. And with pro football in the rear view mirror, Nathan told his father about a new dream.
“Me and his mother (Nancy) are so proud for what he’s done here,” Talmadge McPeek said. “When I picked him up in Green Bay he said I may not be able to play, but I can relate to them. And that’s what he does.
“His players believe in him.”
As soon as he was home he looked for help to get into coaching from uncle, and longtime area coach Garry McPeek.
“We started immediately to look and find him a job.” Garry McPeek said. “We hooked up together at Boyd County and we’ve been coaching together since then. It’s just a joy to work with him everyday and the friendship we’ve built.”
Garry has been coaching in the area for 24 years. He’s been the head coach at Lawrence County, Greenup County, East Carter and Hazard. He’s also served as an assistant at Boyd County and is currently principal, athletic director and assistant coach at Fairview.
In his long career, this season saw Garry be part of his first region title, his first semifinal appearane and now his first appearance in a state championship game.
“I’ve been blessed to be in the business for 24 years and I finally get to put my feet on the carpet,” Garry McPeek said. “The kids have committed to this and worked so hard and it’s just so nice to see it end this way. And to get to share it with your family, it gets no better than that.”
As the time wound down on the game on Friday, Garry hugged Nate and than ran away from everybody. He then looked up to the air with tears in his eyes and mouthed thank you.
“He’s been searching for this his entire career,” Nathan McPeek said. “He’s been coaching so long, and it’s unbelievable we’re getting there in only my fifth year. But it’s a credit to the players, and it’s just a community win.”
Along with Garry and Nathan on the sidelines, and Talmadge in the stands, there is another McPeek on the field. Garry’s son, Cody McPeek, is the Eagles’ starting left tackle, and the sophomore had an impressive year.
Before the season started, Cody was selected to represent the area in the NFL National 7-on-7 Tournament and Lineman Challenge. He was also named to the Eastern Kentucky Conference first-team and carries a 4.0 grade-point average.
“I’ve had a pretty good year,” Cody McPeek said. “But it’s all thanks to my coaches and getting into the weight room.”
Following the footsteps of his father and cousin Nathan, Cody has excelled on the line. And one of the best qualities Nathan sees in his cousin is a lot of his old qualities he had as a player.
“He reminds me a lot of myself,” Nathan McPeek said. “He has a lot of my same mannerisms and can get fired up. We all have that short temper sometimes. He’s got a great future if he keeps working.”
But there is more to Fairview football than the McPeeks.
Cody’s the first to admit that while it’s good to have his dad and his cousin as his coaches, he also pointed out the entire Westwood community has become a giant family.
“This is just a big bond like everyone else on the team,” Cody McPeek said. “We love it here. It’s the best place ever. The best place to coach and the best place to play, ever.”
Talmadge has seen the support his son and brother have received and is amazed at the admiration shown his son.
“The fan support has just been awesome,” Talmadge said. “It’s hard to believe they have so many people pushing for them to win. And not just in football, but in everything.”
“He doesn’t want to be anywhere else. He loves it here and he’s grateful for all the support he’s got here.”
All the McPeeks — Nathan, Gary, Cody and Tallmadge — will make the trek to Bowling Green to watch Fairview take on Mayfield at L.T. Smith Stadium.
“We’ve been to watch several times,” Garry McPeek said. “I’ve said if I can get my feet on that carpet just one time. And just to share it with my family and we’ll give it all we got.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.