Giddens eager for new challenge
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Life has come full circle.
More than 20 years ago, Pete Wiggins was a newcomer to the coaching business, and he was offered a chance to get his foot in the door by Claude Giddens, then the head coach at Highland Home High in Alabama.
Giddens later became the head coach at Callaway High, and Wiggins followed him to Hogansville to become a part of that staff.
Wiggins took over as Callaway’s head coach in 2005, and he has guided the program to tremendous heights during his 15 years at the helm.
Following a 2019 season that ended in the state semifinals, Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier departed to take over the football program at LaGrange High.
That created an opening on the Callaway staff, and Wiggins decided to go with someone he knows well.
Zach Giddens, the son of Claude Giddens, has been hired as Callaway’s offensive coordinator for the 2020 season.
Giddens, who put up big numbers as a quarterback at LaGrange High, spent the past three school years coaching at East Coweta after graduating from the University of West Georgia.
“Coach Giddens hired me in 1997 at Highland Home. That was my first job, and our team went to the semifinals that year, and Zach was just a really young guy then,” Wiggins said. “I’ve seen Zach grow up over the years, and obviously his dad means the world to me, and I don’t think I’d be in the position I’m in without coach Giddens. I have great respect for him, and so I know what Zach is all about. I know that he grew up around football, he grew up loving the game. He’s going to have great instincts on the field, and he played quarterback in high school, and he was very successful.”
Giddens, who was the quarterbacks coach at East Coweta last year, said he’s “extremely thankful and blessed for the opportunity that (principal Jonathan Laney) and coach Wiggins gave me, and having their faith in me. Callaway is a great school, and it has a tremendous football program.”
Giddens has been around football his entire life, and he’s had an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the sport from his father.
“He’s had such a big impact on me,” Zach Giddens said. “The experiences we’ve had with him around the game, it’s been a lot of fun along the way. It goes back to when I was a kid. I’ve been around him on the football field as long as I can remember, from bus rides after the games at Highland Home when I was 4 or 5-years-old, going to practice, and scouting on Friday nights. It was a lot of fun. And then playing under him (at LaGrange High) was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had. And after playing for him, I’ve been able to sit down with him more and meet with him, and talk with him, and learn from him as I’ve gotten older.”
Giddens had a stellar run as LaGrange’s quarterback that included a junior season when he threw for more than 3,000 yards while leading the team to the second round of the state playoffs.
During that 2012 season when Donnie Branch was the head coach and Claude Giddens coached the receivers, Zach Giddens averaged nearly 300 passing yards per game for a team that scored almost 34 points a game. LaGrange’s season came to a close with a 41-34 loss to Ridgeland in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
“It was really nice having the guys I had out there like (wide receiver) Dee Smith, and all of our players,” Giddens recalls. “We had a really good group, and our offensive line was great. It was really a good match for us to run what we were running.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from West Georgia, Giddens secured a teaching position at East Coweta, and during the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons he was an assistant coach on head coach John Small’s staff.
Giddens coached running backs in 2017, wide receivers in 2018, and quarterbacks in 2019.
Giddens also coach lacrosse at East Coweta, and he was the head coach last season.
“It was great for me, because I got a chance to learn a lot of positions, the ins and outs of some different things,” Giddens said. “I was able to cover my bases pretty well. I wanted to start off coaching quarterbacks, but it helped me out in the long run. It was a great learning opportunity.”
Giddens is grateful for the coaches he got to work with at East Coweta including Small, offensive coordinator Jackson Dean, and former LaGrange High standout J.R. Revere.
“I was able to learn so much from them, and East Coweta is a great program and they play at a high level,” Giddens said. “I think that helped prepare me for my upcoming job at Callaway.”
While Giddens’ coaching career is still fairly new, he’s been soaking up football knowledge for as long as he can remember, from his time at LaGrange High and before then when he’d accompany his father to practices.
“I had a lot of great memories playing (at LaGrange), and being around the coaching staff and being around coach (Donnie) Branch, and coach (Steve) Pardue, and coach (David) Pleasants,” Giddens said. “Just going to practice, I was able to pick up at a young age on some concepts, and start doing some group drills with them in middle school. I didn’t really have the mindset that I wanted to go learn this stuff as a kid, I just wanted to have fun, and I loved football. I learned so much along the way, seeing them, hearing them, and working with them, and just being around it all the time. It was so much fun.”
Giddens has settled in at Callaway, and he had an opportunity to work with the players extensively before everything was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The coaching staff, they’ve been excellent and awesome to work with,” Giddens said. “Obviously I’ve got some relationships with guys. The defensive-backs coach, Bruce Danford, he was my college roommate. And with coach (Dialleo) Burks on staff, I couldn’t have a better coach at wide receivers, and I’ve known (defensive coordinator Dusty) Hubbard for a long time, and obviously with coach Wiggins, our relationship goes back. It’s great to have that coaching staff.”
At Callaway, Giddens added, “they take pride in everything they do. It’s a great family mindset, and family environment. I’m just excited to be back home, and I’m excited about this upcoming challenge. Coach Napier has done a phenomenal job over the past several years. I’m just really excited about it, and hopefully we can get back to practicing soon and meeting with the players, and we can hit the ground running.”
Wiggins, who has a 138-47 record as Callaway’s head coach, is thrilled to have Giddens aboard.
“He’ll bring a lot to the football field, but more than that he’s a great person, and he’s going to really help our kids grow, and he’s going to have their best interest,” Wiggins said. “I think it’s a great fit, and I’m looking forward to working with him more, and I’m excited about what he brings to the table. In the short time we’ve been together, he’s formed a great relationship with our coaches, so we’re excited about the opportunities before us.”