Anthony Rose has been waiting for this moment a long time.
The Mechanicsburg school board approved the 41-year-old North Carolina native with a unanimous vote Tuesday as the new varsity football coach, giving Rose his first shot as a head football coach.
“I’ve been around football my entire life,” Rose told The Sentinel this weekend. “To be a varsity head coach has always been my dream.”
Mechanicsburg athletic director Seth Pehanich kept the search for a replacement for last year's coach, Billy Furman, internal, believing he had enough candidates within the district to make a good hire.
Furman went 3-7 in his first and only year, leading the Wildcats to wins for the first time in three seasons. But the school district opened up the coaching position for new candidates in November, a move Furman ripped at the time.
Pehanich took a little more than a month to fill the position this time. Furman was hired at the end of a five-month search.
“The way [Rose] conducts himself, he’s a high-character individual, he’s a grinder,” Pehanich said. “This school means a lot to him already.
“Anthony is going to create his own culture. He’s got the keys at this point, and the kids know that.”
Pehanich said he felt confident in hiring Rose after speaking with others within the district, including those involved in hiring Rose first as a teacher. Pehanich was drawn to Rose’s community involvement, as well.
Tuesday, parents questioned the district’s hiring process for Rose.
“Was this job posting internal or internal and external,” asked Rebecca Cappawana, president of Mechanicsburg Midget Football. “It was internal and external the previous year (for Furman’s hiring). What was the vetting process, who was the review committee? What are the minimum requirements for a candidate. … I have an obligation to these (Midget football players) and their parents to ask these questions before a vote.”
Superintendent Mark Leidy said later in the meeting that the district’s general process for whether to post a job internally or externally depends on need. “If there are more specialized positions available, we will post internally,” he said.
This time, the varsity football coach position was posted only internally, Leidy said. Rose, in fact, is a district faculty member. He began teaching social studies at the high school this year. He is also the ninth grade girls basketball coach, a post he will continue to hold while pursuing offseason football weight training and preparation.
Pehanich said he had multiple applications, but didn’t indicate how many. He said he wasn't necessarily looking to hire a coach who featured a different approach to Furman’s fiery personality.
“The reason we started [internally] was we felt confident we had a lot of people that had football experience we thought highly of,” Pehanich said. “We thought that would streamline the process and get [the kids] the head coach and allow them to hit the ground running.”
If anything, Rose might be equally fiery, but in different ways.
“It’s time to get Mechanicsburg back to the way we used to be,” said Rose, who wants to bring back the Iron Wildcat Club in the weight room to spark internal competition. “We used to be a consistent, hard-nosed football team.”
He added: “I am extremely competitive, you can ask my wife that. … Off the field, I’m probably the most laid-back person you’ll meet.”
Rose’s wife, Rebecca, is a Mechanicsburg graduate herself, and the couple has two kids in elementary school, Max and Addison.
Rose grew up in Maiden, North Carolina, about an hour’s drive north of Charlotte. Rose grew up playing football, basketball and baseball at Maiden High School. A 6-foot-4 tight end and linebacker who helped his team win 38 games and play for multiple state titles, Rose said he was recruited to play tight end at the University of North Carolina before several surgeries ended his career before it started. He graduated from UNC-Charlotte.
His coaching career includes 12 years in high school football, as well as other sports. He spent time as an offensive and defensive coordinator. The young family — Rebecca was pregnant with Addison at the time — moved a decade ago and he began teaching social studies at Chambersburg, where he was the varsity girls basketball coach from 2008-11.
Mechanicsburg athletic director Seth Pehanich hired Rose before the school year to be the new ninth grade football coach, and he led the Wildcats to an 8-1 campaign. The team was restarted after being defunct for nearly five years. By that time of that hire Rose was teaching at Mechanicsburg.
He is currently the ninth grade girls basketball coach under varsity basketball coach Clay McAllister. Rose will continue in that position for the rest of the year while balancing offseason football training and preparation.
“Clay thinks very highly of him and utilizes him in his program,” Pehanich said. “He eliminates the excuses and he just makes it happen.”
Rose said he took a few years off from coaching high school sports in Pennsylvania to help raise his children. He said it was important to be around for their first few years because he didn’t want to miss milestones.
But he had been itching to get back onto the field that entire time and was excited to help the freshman football team this fall.
“Seth was so flexible and so understanding,” Rose said. “Rebecca was all for it. She had known that it was driving me nuts [not coaching].”
He said the decision to jump back into coaching was a family decision. And his kids, who have tagged along during practices or at games, were excited to see him run his own team. Rose said he did coach youth sports teams with his kids, including Max’s flag football team.
“The kids were getting older and [Rebecca] knew that I was getting to a point where I was getting back into it,” he said. “When she heard I was getting the varsity job, she was bursting with joy.”
Rose plans to run a multiple-formation offense that will strive for a run-pass balance. On defense, he’s traditionally run a 4-4 front that likes to attack and put pressure on the quarterback.
Mechanicsburg, which opened the season 2-1 with emotional wins over Spring Grove and Northern, has some young talent to build around, including dynamic returner/receiver Joseph Bruno, receiver/defensive back Will Hoover and running back/linebacker Keegan Neill, all sophomores.
Rose credits a coach he worked with in N.C., Mike Helms, an old high school coach of his, Roland Scott, and his father, Tommy, for being major influences on his football and coaching career.