By Mike London
CHINA GROVE – Carson has given Daniel Crosby his first job as head football coach.
It was a leap of faith on both sides that worked well.
âIt’s bittersweet to leave Carson,â Crosby said. âI was all-in at Carson, I had only the great support of everyone and I have nothing but love for the Cougars. But Mount Pleasant is an incredible opportunity for me and my family.
Crosby, who grew up in China Grove at a time when South Rowan was South Rowan’s only school, has injected blood and sweat into the Cougars’ football program since he was hired in February 2019.
While the bottom line for Carson during Crosby’s tenure was a modest, COVID-plagued 9-19, it gave Carson fans three seasons of small steps forward and plenty of exciting and competitive games. The 56-55 overtime win over South Iredell last April should stand the test of time as one of Carson’s all-time wins.
In return, Carson has propelled Crosby into what he considers a dream job at Mount Pleasant. He and his wife (Erin) and son (Williams) live in Cabarrus County, so he will have less time on the road in the morning and evening.
The reduced commute is part of the attraction, but his feelings for Mount Pleasant obviously run deeper than just saving gas and minutes.
While a student at Catawba College, Crosby taught at Mount Pleasant and helped out in football and baseball as he prepared for a career as a coach / teacher. Mount Pleasant head coach Michael Johns went out of his way to make Crosby an integral part of the program, and that continued into the summer months.
âI was trying to find a job and Coach Johns gave me the opportunity to help,â said Crosby. “I learned so much from him.”
The first job Crosby landed was as a seventh-year assistant coach at Northwest Cabarrus Middle, but his foot was in the door. The following season, he was the head coach of eighth graders.
He spent six seasons at Central Cabarrus, working under Donnie Kiefer for five seasons and former East Rowan head coach Kenneth McClamrock for one season. Crosby led the defenses and he learned a lot from Kiefer, whom he still considers his main coaching influence.
Next, Crosby spent a year at Cox Mill, working for South Rowan graduate Craig Stewart before Carson gave him his first chance to train in high school. He was chosen to follow Joe Pinyan, one of Rowan’s training legends.
âThat first year at Carson, we were 2-9, but this team has stayed together,â said Crosby. âWe got better last spring and then we made the playoffs this year (for the first time in six seasons). I’m proud of the work the guys have done to improve themselves, and honestly everything at Carson is going in the right direction. The good young players and the jayvees were good. There is speed that goes up jayvees that will really make the difference.
Things were looking up for Carson, but when Johns announced at the end of Mount Pleasant’s season that he would be retiring after 23 seasons, Crosby was intrigued and went through the nomination and interview processes. He got the call to replace Johns, who has built a strong and respected program in a small town of Cabarrus that is about half the size of China Grove.
Many communities have been divided as growth has brought more schools. The South Rowan community is now divided between Carson and South Rowan, and there has been an almost continuous subdivision of the Cabarrus communities over the past two decades.
But Mount Pleasant is still intact, it’s still a football-obsessed city and community. It’s very attractive to Crosby.
âIt’s a place the community closes on Fridays to go to the soccer game,â Crosby said. “It’s the most important thing in town. It means there is some pressure to win, but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.”
In 2014, a formidable team from North Rowan descended on Mount Pleasant and were beaten in the playoffs. In 2005, one of Johns’ Mount Pleasant teams knocked Salisbury out of the playoffs.
Mount Pleasant was generally pretty good over the past couple of decades and sometimes better than that. Johns has coached almost 300 games and he maintained a winning career record
“They have tough, uncompromising kids, like the kids I had in Carson.” said Crosby. âCoach Johns is a true legend. They are big shoes to fill.
Crosby, 35, will do his best to accommodate them.
Crosby was a South Rowan player’s Bulldog, a football fullback / linebacker and a baseball catcher / third baseman.
He learned the games early from his father, Danny, who was a longtime coach, AD and field goalie at South Rowan.
Crosby played college football at Averett, but concussions were a problem. He made the cautious decision to end his playing career and complete his education near his home in Catawba.
Now he’s doing what he always wanted to do.
Mount Pleasant fans will find he is not a coach who will try to cram the Tigers into a rigid system. He is flexible. He will choose what is best for his staff.
Last spring, Carson had a throwing quarterback and a talented receiving group and threw the ball 189 times in a seven-game season.
This fall, Carson’s strengths were a running quarterback and a full-back bulldozer, so Crosby installed the split-back turn. It worked well enough to bring the Cougars back to the playoffs, and they performed admirably in a respectable loss to Crest. Carson set up a practice against Crest who consumed an entire quarterback.
Crosby will leave Carson in better shape than he was when he arrived. This is a major goal for any coach.
He’ll be at Carson a little longer. He will begin working as a physical education and weightlifting teacher in Mount Pleasant on January 14. The second semester will start on January 18.
Crosby spent a year at Cox Mill before being hired by Carson to follow Joe Pinyan as head coach. This hire as head football coach and PE and weightlifting teacher was announced in February 2019. It was one hire that basically brought him home.
Crosby’s Carson teams were 9-19 in three seasons. The Cougars were 4-6 this season, ending a playoff drought. Carson was 3-3 in the Southern Piedmont Conference to tie for third and won big against rivals South Rowan and East Rowan.
Crosby has shown adaptability to his staff this season, switching to a half-turn attack to take advantage of the running ability and decision-making ability of senior quarterback Hunter Burris.