DaVaughn Thornton Sr. has a megaphone and he’s not afraid to use it.
The 28-year-old has the opportunity to be a head football coach much sooner than even he might have expected it, but he plans to run the Overland football team in the 2019 season with a style he describes as “loud and detailed.”
When Steve Sewell stepped down from his post in late May, Thornton — an assistant the previous two seasons — got the call and immediately began work towards the new campaign, which he hopes is the beginning of a long stay.
“It’s like drinking out of a firehose right now, but I’m built for this,” Thornton recently told the Sentinel. “Whether it’s how to talk to an angry parent or a happy one or how to create a practice plan. Every day is learning and I love it.
“I always used to say, ‘I’m going to be a head coach, I’m going to be a head coach.’ Here it is now.”
Thornton had a “partial idea” that Sewell — his friend and mentor who finished 6-14 with Overland in two seasons, including a 1-9 mark last season — might be ready to move on, so he wasn’t completely unprepared when he got the call.
Most interim football coaches don’t get an entire summer to prepare for the upcoming season, so Thornton feels extremely fortunate to have that advantage as he bids to put in a place a strong showing to make the position permanent.
He also has an intrinsic knowledge of Overland’s personnel as he served on Sewell’s staff as wide receivers coach and also coached the Trailblazers’ special teams.
The timing of his taking over and returning players’ knowing him and two other returning members of the coaching staff have helped Overland’s non-mandatory summer workouts — weight lifting and sprints in the morning, drills in the afternoon — be well-attended.
“Having all of June and July is big; once you get the kids to buy in like our coaching staff has, you’ll get 50 kids to show up, at least,” said Thornton, who has a new staff save for holdovers Chris Broadus and Daniel Rodriguez.
Thornton believes another thing that helps his players buy in is seeing him in the classroom as well, as they did with Sewell.
He enters his third year at Overland as an English teacher and can’t overstate how much getting to know his players off the field helps.
“I think the population that we serve at Overland is very unique,” he said. “For them to see a minority male in the classroom and see them again on the football field, that’s amazing. I think that was a good thing about Coach Sewell as well. He was in the building and he was a positive male, so I hope to continue that.
“When they see a coach and staff with the energy and passion to win, they are going to match it. That’s the same in the classroom. If they have a teacher that has a passion for English like myself, they are going to want to ready and write more.”
In just a short amount of interaction, Thornton made a large impression on his new boss, incoming Overland athletic director Karl Buck.
Before he got the job — taking over for Ryan Knorr, who was in on the appointment of Thornton — Buck attended one of the parent-player meetings presided over by Thornton and came away impressed.
“DaVaughn has jumped in with both feet and it’s admirable the amount of passion that he has,” Buck said. “The young men that were part of that meeting seemed ready for it and ready to take that one. He’s young, but he has the credentials and the energy that the program deserves. I’ll be excited to watch him in his first year of doing it. There’s a level of enthusiasm that’s contagious.”
Thornton knows he will need a lot of energy for his first season as a head coach, where he’ll employ a style that mixes things he learned from a variety of coaches he was around in recent years as a player and assistant coach, plus his own volume.
The Trailblazers haven’t had a winning season since 2014 when they went 7-4 and made it to the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs. The good news is that the last two coaches to take over the program (Seth Replogle in 2012 and Sewell in 2017) went 5-5 in their first seasons.
That will be a tremendous task considering Overland will spend one more season in the rugged conference with Centennial League powerhouses Cherry Creek, Eaglecrest, Grandview, Cherokee Trail and Arapahoe. The Trailblazers will move into the Metro 10 conference (which has two divisions) along with Hinkley and Rangeview for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
“It’s the best league in the state and everybody knows that; it’s a gauntlet,” Thornton said. “Cherokee Trail, Grandview, Cherry Creek, Eaglecrest, back-to-back-to-back-to-back, there’s no byes. You’re either going to meet the challenge or you’re going to fold. Last year, we didn’t necessarily meet that challenge. I think this time we have time to prepare and make sure we meet that challenge.”
To do that, Thornton will try to take advantage of what he believes is the fastest group of players as a whole in the league along with returning players in key places such as Mark Thrower at quarterback and Jaheim Roper, last season’s leading rusher.
Thornton has experience on the field to lend to his coaching, as he was a star tight end at Denver East and made the All-Colorado team as a senior. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder headed to the University of Colorado, where he played for a few head coaches (making 14 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown in 32 career games after a redshirt season).
After graduation, Thornton went to Colorado State-Pueblo (where got connected with Sewell) and played while he worked on his masters degree in English.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports