By TREY WILLIAMS
For the first time since he quarterbacked Daniel Boone as a senior in 2004, Ben Fox will be part of a team in Tennessee when Maryville College opens its four-game “spring” football season on Feb. 27.
Fox, the 2005 valedictorian at Boone, was named the new head coach at Maryville College on Monday.
Fox had exceptional success as an offensive coordinator at Centre College for three seasons (2017-19) after spending 2012-16 as receivers coach and eventually offensive coordinator at Huntingdon College, which will visit Maryville on Feb. 27.
“That will be a great challenge for us,” Fox said. “Huntingdon is a great program. There’s a lot of good people down there that work really hard.”
Oddly enough, East Tennessee State assistant Mike Rader, a Science Hill alum, left Huntingdon to become Maryville’s head coach in 2012 and Fox filled his spot at Huntingdon. And Rader’s head coaching debut came against Huntingdon.
“It’s a bitter rivalry,” said Fox, comparing it to Tennessee-Alabama when Tennessee was good.
Fox came of age as part of the intense Musket Bowl rivalry. He credits the likes of Trailblazers football coaches Jeremy Jenkins and Carl Richards with helping build his foundation, and he learned a lot about coaching while playing basketball for Bobby Snyder.
“I learned so much about preparing a team from Coach Snyder,” Fox said. “He is such a good person and such a good man, and so fiercely competitive. He wanted to win so badly.
“I think he and I are probably a lot alike. I tell my guys all the time, all the quarterbacks that I’m recruiting, I give them a disclaimer: “I am not easy to play for. I’m warning you, I’m not easy to play for. But I will always support you and I will always love you and I will treat you like you’re mine.’
“And that was Coach Snyder. He was not always easy to play for. But I always knew he loved me and wanted what was best for me and wanted what was best for our team. I have just always thought the world of Coach Snyder.”
Fox also benefitted from his father, Mark, who is in his final year as the Vice President for Student Development and Athletics at Milligan University. Fox’s stint at Milligan included getting Derek Dooley’s Tennessee Volunteers football team to stay on campus while conducting a number of summertime practices and landing his softball team an exhibition game against the Olympic team.
Ben said his dad has often helped him see college life from vantage points other than through a football lens.
“He’s been the VP and dean of students and athletic director for so long,” Ben said, “and understands the rhythms and inner workings of how a small, liberal arts college functions. I think that’s a huge advantage for me – having someone (to learn from) when I was frustrated with the inevitable challenges that happen at a small, private liberal arts college.”
Ben Fox seemed as though he was born to coach when he was 18 years old. When that observation was made at the time, Mark instantly joked about not sending his son to a respected academics school such as Washington University to become a football coach. Truth was, he never did anything but support Ben’s dream.
And four years after he arrived as a freshman in St. Louis, Ben was beginning his coaching career in Rhode Island at Bryant University.
“If you’re a successful football coach at any level,” Ben said, “unless you were just a great player or have some sort of nepotism, the number one thing that allows you to stick and make it is continued support from your family. Because my first job as a GA I made $3,000 for the year. I didn’t have to pay housing, but I literally made $3,000. And I did that for two years at Bryant. I made six grand in two years. That’s ridiculous. And I was working investment banker hours.
“It was a lot of work and I had a lot of family support. Coaching to me is a ministry and a calling. … Viewing it as a calling and having family that viewed it as a calling allowed me to have a lot of support.”
Fox is happy to be 100 minutes from home after more than a decade of grand adventures.
“Other than Jesus and my family, ball is the most consistent thing in my life,” Fox said. “It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of memories, a lot of great friendships. And it’s taken our family around the country. Who would’ve ever thought I’d go to college in St. Louis, live in New England, recruit northern New Jersey, do home visits in Paterson, New Jersey and do home visits in Montgomery, Alabama.
“That’s pretty wild. We were out there practicing at the Star (in the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium). It’s been a fun trip, and I’m excited for the next phase and just very humbled to be the next coach at Maryville College.”