Wadley’s mayor lives in a house once owned by his great grandfather.
Once upon a time his grandfather was the source for Wadley residents to get their pet dogs at a place called Pete’s Puppy Land. (“There probably isn’t a person that’s from Wadley that’s 35 years or older that didn’t get a dog from my granddaddy,” he said.)
His dad graduated from Wadley High School and is a former head coach at Handley.
He played under his dad at Handley and actually graduated from Woodland.
So, yes, the Randolph County roots run deep for new Wadley head football coach Shenan Motley.
“I’m from this area, and it was just, to me, it was time to get back closer to home,” Motley said. “My mama and daddy’s from this area. My wife’s parents are from this area. I knew one day I was going to work my way back closer to here somewhere. And I think this situation here is a great situation.”
Motley takes over the Wadley program after it spent a year under the watch of Jonathan Farr. Like Farr, Motley spent some of his formative coaching years as an assistant at Sweet Water.
He and Farr spent time on the same staff there and developed a solid rapport, so much so that when Farr stepped down after last season he was first in line to champion Motley’s cause as his replacement.
“He called me and said, ‘Man, I’ve been putting in a good word for you,’” Motley recalled. “And I said, ‘If I come you’ve got to come out there and help me.’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ But finally when it came down to it he got out there and helped me, and I’m glad.”
That’s right. The man who gave up the head coaching job has taken a spot as an assistant on his successor’s staff. It’s an unusual arrangement but one that appears destined for success.
“When you’re at a small school like this, coaches are slim,” Motley said. “You need every able person you can get to come and help.
“I’m going to do my thing, and I think coach Farr respects that.”
Motley’s name has come up in the rumor mill several times over the last few years as head coaching positions became available in the county. He admits that he took notice when the Woodland job became available after the 2016 season, but he believed the timing wasn’t quite right to go after it.
“I was at Sweet Water at the time, and I knew we were going to have a shot that next year,” Motley said. “And I’d been with those guys for about three years, and I said I don’t really want to leave what’s here right now. And it worked out good. We won the state championship that year.”
That was in 2017, when Sweet Water eked past Wadley in the state semifinals, denying the Bulldogs their first ever trip to the state championship game.
Now Motley has set himself to the task of getting Wadley over that championship hump.
“I think we have an opportunity to do some good things here,” he said. “I don’t know when. It could be this year. It could be three years from now. It depends on how these kids respond. But I want these kids’ mentality to be no matter who we play, no matter who we go out there on that field with, we expect to win. No matter what. Who cares who you’re playing? Expect to win. That’s the mentality that needs to be instilled in these guys.”
Instilling a mentality is not something that tends to happen overnight, and to that end Motley has made it known that he wants to be at Wadley for the long haul.
“The biggest message I want to get across to these kids, and I don’t think they believe it yet. I want to be here to stay, and I want to be stable. And that means a lot in a program,” he said.
In that regard, actions often speak louder than words, and Motley’s actions speak volumes.
He and his wife Leslie have already purchased a home in the Wadley area, after they refused to do so during their years at Sweet Water.
“We never bought a house over there. We rented the whole time,” he said. “We just knew one day, we didn’t know if it was going to be 10 or 15 years, but we knew at some point in time we were going to mosey back closer to Randolph County.”
Leslie Motley has taken a job as a first grade teacher at Wadley, and the Motley’s have two elementary-school-aged sons, Drake and Beau, who will also be students at the school where their parents teach.
As for the football side of things, Motley’s background is on the defensive side of the ball. But he says he hasn’t made any final decisions on how the coaching duties will be divvied up among a staff that includes holdovers Farr, Terrell Zachery and Eddard Beverly along with newcomer Jerrell Burns.
“That’s kind of up in the air right now about who’s going to be doing what,” Motley said.
There’s plenty of time for those decisions to be made, as the season is still two months away.
In the meantime he’s going make sure that the 36 players that he has in summer workouts are putting in their time to prepare.
“It’s not that what I do is necessarily any better than anybody else, but I’m going to work these kids hard,” he said. “I believe in the weight room.”