Hebron Christian has a new head football coach with at least one notable similarity to its previous one — he is a former NFL offensive lineman.
The Dacula private school announced Friday that six-time NFL Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl XLI champion Jeff Saturday has been hired for the head coaching vacancy left by Kevin Shaffer’s resignation. Saturday worked at Hebron as an assistant the past two seasons under Shaffer, a nine-year NFL veteran himself.
“Obviously, I’m excited,” Saturday said. “I enjoyed working with Shaffer. We had a great time and a great relationship. We have a staff of men who care about developing kids in a Christ-like manner and playing good football. Hopefully, we can take it to the next level. … I’m excited about building and having an influence and impact on not only the players, but the coaches and their development. And developing as a coach myself.”
Saturday, 41, played 14 NFL seasons, 13 with the Indianapolis Colts, where he anchored an offensive line at center that protected quarterback Peyton Manning. Saturday’s 132 career wins are second only to Manning (141) in franchise history. Saturday and Manning started an NFL-record 172 games as a center-quarterback tandem.
“I think Jeff is a perfect fit for our school right now,” Hebron athletic director Taylor Davis said. “We’ve been talking through this the last few weeks. As this had unfolded, Jeff understands our culture and he knows exactly how to build this program going forward. I believe he’ll be the perfect fit to where the future of this program is headed.”
Saturday, a member of the NFL Players Association’s Executive Committee during his playing days, retired from football after the 2012 season and was inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor in 2015. After his playing career ended, he worked as an analyst for ESPN.
He began coaching at Hebron prior to the 2015 season after spending the previous season working with Mill Creek youth coach Rod Dollar, which sparked his interest in coaching football. All three of his children now attend Hebron, where his son Jeffrey is a sophomore wide receiver on the football team, as well as a basketball player.
Saturday is a Tucker native who played football at Shamrock High in DeKalb County. He also was an All-ACC selection and two-year captain for the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Hebron has enjoyed minimal success in the football program’s young history, though it has trended upward since Shaffer became head coach in 2013. The Lions went 6-4 in 2015 and 5-6 this past season, earning their first state playoff appearance.
Graduation will take some key players off that team, leaving Saturday with the task of working new faces into the lineup before the 2017 season.
“I think we’re at the point where we’re putting in a disciplined approach and setting the course for the long haul,” Saturday said. “That’s realistic. I don’t know how many games we’ll win (in 2017). We’re losing some really good players. We’re losing two or three all-region kids and for a team with 40 players, that’s significant. We’ll have to replace some guys. We’re focusing on a sustainable program. To do that, we’re going to have to have some young guys come in and play.”
THE SATURDAY FILE
Name: Jeff Saturday
New position: Head football coach at Hebron Christian
Former position: Offensive coordinator at Hebron Christian
Education: Graduated from Shamrock High School; earned business degree from the University of North Carolina
Background: Played 14 NFL seasons, 13 with the Indianapolis Colts and one with the Green Bay Packers; earned 132 career wins as a Colt, trailing only Peyton Manning’s 141 in team history; started an NFL-record 172 games with Manning as a center-quarterback tandem; made six Pro Bowls and won Super Bowl XLI with the Colts; member of the NFL Players Association’s Executive Committee during his playing days; inducted into Colts Ring of Honor in 2015; has worked a broadcaster with ESPN since his retirement; spent the past two seasons as a Hebron assistant; was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection at North Carolina
Family: Wife Karen; sons Jeffrey, 16, and Joshua, 10; daughter Savannah, 14