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Getting to Know: Peachtree Ridge head football coach Matt Helmerich

By PRHS Football, 03/30/22, 8:00AM EDT


Source: Gwinnett Prep Sports

Matt Helmerich was hired in late February as head football coach at Peachtree Ridge. He spent the past five seasons as head coach at Johns Creek, going 35-20 in that span with a pair of region championships. His 2021 team reached the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals for the best finish in the young program’s history.

In the latest edition of “Getting to Know...”, Helmerich talks with staff correspondent Mike Faulkner about growing up in Indiana, coaching in Florida, Peyton Manning and more.

MF: What made you want to get into coaching?

MH: My dad was a head football coach in Indiana for almost 22-23 years and I grew up around the game. Grew up in his coaching office and around the game. I’ve been involved in sports my whole life whether it was two or three sports. I got into it and loved kids. My mom ran a daycare center so I’ve always been around sports and helping kids.

MF: Tell us more about your football background?

MH: So I played at Butler up in Indianapolis. Not many PE jobs back in 2001 so I went down to Florida. Got into coaching and my career blossomed down there. Met some great people and was glad to be around them. I also coached some really good players. I counted them up the other day and there were 15 guys either in the NFL or practice roster. People like Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa, Asante Samuel. You know, fortunate enough to work with people who are doing big things. I recently spent the last five years at Johns Creek. My family and I love Georgia and we’ve been here for five years.

MF: How would you say your coaching career has been so far?

MH: I would call it a steady climb. I started back in the fall of 2002. I got into track and was fortunate enough especially in South Florida there are athletes all over the place. I was also a defensive coordinator or a special teams coordinator everywhere I’ve been. Took a step back when I went to St. Thomas as far as titles but worked my way back up slowly. Worked hard and learned from some good guys.

MF: What drives you as a coach?

MH: My favorite thing is to see these kids get opportunities to play at the next level. We’ve had baseball, lacrosse and even basketball players go to the next level. Working with these kids seeing them as scrawny freshmen coming in and developing them into these athletic monsters. My favorite time of year is signing day. These past couple of years when I was at Johns Creek we’ve had 46 kids go to the next level. That’s something we really hang our hat on. That 2019 season 14 of them had offers to the next level. This past year we had 29 seniors and 15 of them are going to play on Saturdays. So 15 kids from one program playing at the next level speaks volumes to our program.

MF: What are some things you’re instilling in this program to the players?

MH: A little bit of everything. I’m going to bring my mantra of, find a way. Whether it’s the weight room, getting involved in other sports, in the classroom or in the community. Find a way. That’s been our thing for the last couple of years. We’re hoping to take this to a new level. Something we’ve done in the past at St. Thomas was to travel. We played at Dallas, New Orleans, West Point, Alabama. At Johns Creek we went to DC, South Carolina, we had a trip planned to New Jersey but was canceled because of COVID. Hosting out of state teams and putting these kids on a big stage. Making this less about a couple Friday nights a year and more about the program’s experience. We take them on a campus tour every summer, visit some camps and 7 on 7 to get these kids out and see different colleges. Just overall getting a great experience with high school football because there’s so much stuff we have access to.

MF: What made you think Peachtree Ridge was a good fit for you?

MH: Great question. Since I moved up here I’ve been all in at Johns Creek and I could’ve stayed there for another 15, 20 years. There’s always something about this area that caught my eye. I live in the Duluth community. I’ve been following the school since I moved up here, Friday nights and seeing where their players are going as far as recruiting. It’s an unbelievable community, diverse and we have athletes of all shapes and sizes. I just think it is a place where we can really blossom. The facility upgrades are unbelievable. The money they’re putting into the school and the athletic department, the new turf and track. We’re redoing our weight room. We already have the Heyward Center with an indoor facility that not a lot of people have. I’d put our facility against anybody in the state when it’s all said and done.

MF: Before pregame what do you listen to? What helps you get into the zone?

MH: I don’t listen to too much music before games because I’m running around the game like a chicken with my head cut off but I do try to take some time to myself. I’m a big Christian rock guy. Chris Tomlin, Philips, Craig and Dean, guys like that I can sing along to by myself. Just a little bit more relaxing. As a player I used to find Metallica so I could get all hype and bang my head against the locker too. Now I’m the other way, I can’t get too hyped. I have to make sure everything is running smoothly so I just need some music to calm me down.

MF: Tell us about your family background?

MH: My wife was born and raised in Florida. We met in 2010 and moved up here in 2017. My son was born in 2018 and he’s 3 now. I tell the kids and the community that there are great schools around here, I want him to go to Peachtree Ridge. So I said I’m here for another 15 years until he graduates — if it’s longer then great — but I plan on being here for another 15 years until he graduates. And we love downtown Duluth and Suwanee, such great areas.

MF: What do y’all do in your free time?

MH: My son is obsessed with downtown Duluth. He likes to go to the library and he loves trains. So we go to downtown Duluth all the time and sit outside, have lunch and wait on trains. Then we’ll spend another couple hours at the train museum. We try to get to some games every now and then whether it’s UGA or Falcons games. Having a kid is a game changer so we focus our weekends and free time on him.

MF: Do you have a favorite NFL team or favorite NFL player of all time?

MH: I grew up watching the Colts. Peyton Manning changed the landscape of football in Indiana. It was basketball, basketball, basketball all growing up in the ’80s and ’90s. He and the Colts changed the way. The Hoosier State looks at football and football has taken off up there. There used to be a couple D-I’s in the whole state. Now it’s D-I’s at several different schools. There was an article called the Peyton factor and they’ve taken that to the next level.