It might have been the shortest meeting of the Kilgore Independent School District’s board in its history — but it also might have been one of the most significant.

The board voted unanimously to approve a contract for Clint Fuller, the new head football coach at Kilgore High School.

Fuller, who lived here as a child and watched his father, Phil Fuller, coach as defensive coordinator at Kilgore College, returns to R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium at the helm of the Bulldogs, the Ragin’ Red, the Pride of KHS, the caretaker of one of the most storied football programs in East Texas.

Fuller comes to Kilgore after serving as defensive coordinator himself at one of the most successful programs in the state in recent years, Pleasant Grove.

“It’s surreal,” Fuller said, after the meeting. “It’s just surreal. Kilgore is such a special place to me, and for our family. All those years ago, to be helping my dad here at R.E. St. John, and then to come back here... It’s just special.”

Fuller said he told Pleasant Grove head coach and athletic director Josh Gibson — who he’s known since they were children, and that their fathers coached together — that there were only a few places he’d want to leave Pleasant Grove for, but that Kilgore was one of them.

Immediately after the vote, Fuller and his wife Emily, 8-year-old daughter Dylan and 6-year-old son Phil — named after his grandfather — were greeted by Superintendent Dr. Andy Baker, former coach and still athletic director Mike Wood, and members of the board: Dana Sneed, Dereck Borders, President Reggie Henson, Alan Clark, Jason Smith, Joe Parker and Lloyd Vanderwater.

The new coach dressed very nicely for the occasion: a suit, with a Kilgore-red tie — one might say a Ragin’ Red tie.

Baker had told the News Herald last week that out of 18 applicants, the candidates had been narrowed to six, and then vetted further.

Kilgore has a long tradition of fantastic football, and has had only two head coaches since 1995. Fuller will be the third.

Fuller, as mentioned, comes to Kilgore with a fantastic reputation as a defensive mind in Texas high school football, having won titles at Pleasant Grove and also having coached at Southlake Carroll.

During his stint as defensive coordinator and assistant athletic director at PG, Fuller wore a number of hats. He was also director of compliance and eligibility, and as an assistant AD, oversaw golf, tennis and track, and was also the head track coach, the strength and conditioning director and offseason coordinator, with all those hats perhaps preparing him, as it turned out, for this position at Kilgore.

Prior to that, he was at Grapevine High School for two years, as defensive coordinator, track coach, strength and conditioning director, offseason coordinator, and taught world history, and again, before that, he was at Southlake Carroll for two years, as defensive secondary coach, track coach and world history teacher.

He was at Byron Nelson High in Trophy Club, Texas, for six years (2009-2015), as DC, track coach and world history teacher, and was at Van Alstyne in 2008 and 2009, as secondary coach and world history teacher.

Without question, Fuller’s biggest accomplishment in the sport of football, on and off the field, was at Pleasant Grove, where he was the defensive coordinator of a program that has had great success at the state level. The Hawks won a state title in 2019 and were the state finalist, DII the year before that. They made it to the regional semifinals in fall 2020.

His defenses have been ranked as the top in their district in 2018, 2019 and 2020; he was a part of the district coaching staff of the year in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons with head coach Josh Gibson, and impressively, he was a finalist for the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine’s assistant coach of the year in ’19.

Make no mistake: Fuller knows the reputation and tradition of the program in which he’s taken the reins.

The Bulldogs have only missed the playoffs twice in the last 26 years, and Wood, who will remain on as athletic director, most recently guided KHS to a 10-4 season, and two wins away from a UIL Class 4A Division I state championship, in 2020. Wood went 83-53 in 11 seasons, missing the playoffs just once, and his predecessor, Mike Vallery, missed only once, as well, in 15 seasons.

Kilgore wants to get back to where Fuller has been: a state championship. The Bulldogs went unbeaten and won it all in 2004, and returned in 2013, falling to Carthage at AT&T Stadium.

“Coach Wood has built an elite program that is known throughout East Texas and the state for having a tradition of discipline, integrity and excellence in everything that it does,” Fuller said, “and I’m excited to help this program move forward.”

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