Dallas County coaches share brotherly love

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 2004

There are times when they have arguments on the football field, and they occasionally may not talk to each other for days at a time.

But that’s to be expected of two people who are as close as Dallas County High School head coach Rick Bush and defensive coordinator Eric Hiott.

The two Hornets’ coaches have quite a history. They coached together for the first time in 1995 at Bibb County High School. Bush was the quarterbacks coach and Hiott the offensive line coach under former head coach Rocky Colburn, now the strength and conditioning and linebackers coach with the Atlanta Falcons.

Email newsletter signup

From there, Hiott went to Chelsea High School where he was the offensive coordinator from 1997-2001. Bush went to Hueytown High, where he was offensive coordinator, and also coached the quarterbacks and defensive ends.

In 2002, Hiott went to Tuscaloosa County High School and became defensive line coach.

One of Hiott’s biggest wins came his first year at Tuscaloosa County when it knocked off perennial Class 6A favorite Hoover.

During the spring of 2003, the two coaches met over a meal of chicken wings, where the newly-named Dallas County head coach persuaded Hiott to join him.

“That’s all he eats is chicken wings,” Hiott said. “He reminds me of Bum Phillips. They both eat a lot of chicken. (Bush) eats chicken wings wherever we go.”

During his nine-year relationship with Bush, Hiott has learned to expect the unexpected.

“You never know what he’s going to do or say,” Hiott said. “Off the field, he plays a lot of practical jokes. He just rearranged a coach’s office and he hid a lot of stuff from him. That drove the other coach nuts.”

Bush also is known for the unexpected on the practice field. Hiott said that the Monday after the 69-0 beating at the hands of Demopolis, Bush showed up at practice wearing a camouflage outfit and a bright orange baseball cap.

“He said he was going hunting,” Hiott said. “He told the players he was hunting for some real football players.”

The message was well received by the Hornets, who dominated Keith High in a 43-0 win last week.

His attire may have been a bit odd that day, but Bush gives a different reason for his weird wardrobe.

“It was cold that day,” he said.

Bush called Hiott “an intense coach who loves what he does.”

“He has a lot of character about him and a lot of class,” Bush said. “He wants to win and he wants things done the right way.

“When it’s time to work, we work,” Bush added. “We’re both family guys. When work’s over, we spend time with our families.”

Their time together goes beyond the football field. The two coaches also take their competitive nature into other areas.

“We’ve known each other a long time,” Hiott said. “There isn’t anything that goes on in my life that coach Bush doesn’t know about. We hunt and fish together and our families spend a lot of time together.

“We’ll argue about football and we’ll argue when we go fishing,” Hiott added. “He’ll try to tell me what kind of lure I need to use and I’ll tell him how he needs to fish.”

Their fishing strategies may vary greatly, but Hiott and Bush are usually on the same page when it comes to the Hornets.

“Coach Hiott is like my brother,” Bush said. “We have one of those special relationships among coaches where you don’t have to worry about the other taking care of business.”

That brotherly relationship was put to the test in March 2003 when Hiott suffered a major heart attack that almost took his life.

“I was literally 10 minutes away from death,” he said. “I had 100 percent blockage. I have a young son, E.J., and I thought about spending more time with him.”

Hiott spent 10 days in the hospital and six weeks at home, away from school and the football field. However, four months later he ignored doctors’ orders to relax.

“They told me not to do anything strenuous,” he said. “But I was back in July, out mowing the field in 100-degree weather.

“The doctors told me to slow down,” Hiott added. “I haven’t yet.”

Hiott was forced to slow down earlier this week. He missed his first practice in 10 years on Monday after suffering chest pains Sunday night. Hiott said he went to the doctor on Monday. He was given an arteriogram and prescribed rest by his doctor.

“The doctor told me I didn’t have any blockage,” Hiott said. “He told me the pain was probably from an old shoulder injury, but he didn’t want me to take any chances, so he told me to stay home.”

Don’t count of Hiott’s absence being too long. He said he would be on the sidelines Friday night when Dallas County travels to Greene County.

Bush and Hiott both credited their wives for their support throughout their respective careers.

“I couldn’t have done this without Nancy,” Hiott said. “And I’m sure Rick couldn’t have done it without Nicki. They take care of the house and raise the kids when we’re not there, and our jobs are year-’round.”