From preschool through 12th grade, Daniel Armstrong didn’t call any school home but Fairview.
Eleven years after he graduated an Eagle, he’s back in red and black.
Fairview officially named Armstrong its head football coach on Tuesday. He’s thrilled to return to Westwood after four years at Greenup County, but he’s also hyperfocused on the task at hand.
“If I didn’t say it’s exciting, I’d be lying,” Armstrong said. “To me, it’s more about getting together my staff and teaching these young men how to play the game the correct way and how to compete, improving every single day.”
Armstrong, 29, spent the last four seasons as a Greenup County assistant. In 2015, he served as the linebackers coach. Midway through that year, he essentially became the defensive coordinator. Armstrong remained in that position through last fall.
“I love Greenup County. I’m really thankful for the experience I had there,” said Armstrong, who worked alongside former leader Chris Mullins for a season and current head coach Scott Grizzle for the last three. “It gave me an opportunity to learn and grow as a coach. It showed me the impact the staff can have on a program when you work together for a common goal.”
The Musketeers went a combined 25-21 with Armstrong on the sideline.
As a player, Armstrong was hard-nosed, tough-minded and versatile. He lined up at virtually every spot for former Eagles coaches Chad Tackett and Rex Cooksey from 2004-07. The 2008 graduate rushed for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns on 131 carries as a senior. Fairview went 6-5 that year. His favorite position was defensive tackle, a spot he assumed in his one season at Centre College before transferring to Morehead State to complete his education.
“It felt natural to me,” Armstrong said. “I’m defense-first, but I’m not a one-trick pony, either. I understand offense from a defensive point of view.”
Fairview hired Armstrong as a biology teacher and assistant coach initially. When Derek Cooksey left Fairview for Russell, Brett Cooksey filled the void in the director’s seat on the basketball sideline. Brett guided the football team last fall. He will help Armstrong.
“When everything started to move, Rex (Cooksey) came to me and said, ‘Some stuff’s going to be shuffled around. Are you interested?’ Obviously I was. It just moved on from there,” Armstrong said.
Eric Hale, Fairview High School’s principal until Monday when he becomes achievement gap student services coordinator, was an assistant when Armstrong suited up.
“Real cerebral guy,” Hale said. “He would study the playbook, and he lived in the weight room. He knew every position on the field. It was no surprise to me that he pursued a career in education and coaching. He’s a first-class guy.”
Hale said Armstrong is “very intense,” but he’s also “a fun guy.”
Armstrong labeled himself a teacher first. He isn’t obsessed with record as much as he’s concerned about re-establishing a culture at Fairview. The Eagles went 0-10 a year ago.
“It needs to be a physical, competitive culture — something they’ve been lacking for some time now,” Armstrong said. “That was our M.O. when Chad Tackett was there. We were going to hit you in the mouth, and we’re going to go back and do it again. ... We want to give it hell for 48 minutes, no matter what.”
“People measure success in wins and losses,” he added, “but I look at it a little more broad. Where are our kids three, four, 10 years from now? Are they using the tools we taught them? That’s the biggest value for me.”
Armstrong is married to Chelsey (Porter) Armstrong.
Fairview will resume practice following the conclusion of the dead period (July 9). It will open its 2019 season on the road against East Carter on Aug. 23.
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