When John Hendrick guided Jackson State to a 2-1 record last year as interim head coach, it wasn’t hard to see what was coming next.
A veteran with 36 years of coaching experience, including two stops in Baton Rouge, Hendrick is on his second head coaching job and appears to have the Tigers on the right track going into Saturday’s rivalry clash with Southern. The game kicks off at 2 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi.
“I’m enjoying,” said Hendrick, who coached at Southern (1986) under Otis Washington and LSU (1989-90) under Mike Archer. "I’ve got a group of great young men to coach, a great group of men around me as coaches. I’ve got a really good athletic administration trying to do everything in their power to give me everything I need to be successful.
“I’m tickled pink to be a part of what I think is the best HBCU job in America. I’m really excited as we move forward in hopefully building this thing into what our constituency desires.”
An all-conference defensive lineman at Pittsburgh, he started his coaching career at Delaware State before returning to his alma mater for two seasons as offensive line coach.
Since then also coached at Texas A&M (1987-88), Mississippi State (1995-02), Alabama State (2102-13, 2015), Arkansas-Pine Bluff, South Carolina State, Delaware State and Temple. His other head coaching stop was at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, where he compiled an 18-24 record from 2003-06.
Hendrick has his work cut out for him. The Tigers haven’t had a winning record since reaching the 2013 SWAC title game, where they lost to Southern and coach Dawson Odums. Odums said he’s crossed paths with Hendrick many times during their careers and holds great respect for him.
“Coach (Hendrick) is doing an outstanding job; I’ve known him a long time,” Odums said. “We talk outside of football. I know he’ll have a football team that’s prepared to play. He’s doing it the right way.
“He’s a good man. I was happy for him when he got an opportunity to be a head coach.”
The Tigers started slow this season, losing five of their first six games, then bouncing back to win three straight before last week’s 48-43 loss to Alabama A&M. Even with that loss, the Tigers are still in the hunt for the East Division title, needing victories against Southern and Alcorn State and losses by Alabama A&M and Alabama State for a shot at the title.
Regardless of what happens Saturday, Hendrick said the future is bright for the Tigers, who are starting freshman quarterback Jalon Jones against Southern. Jones accounted for 350 yards and four touchdowns rushing and passing in the loss to Alabama A&M. JSU will loses only three starters each from the offense and defense.
“Our trajectory is right,” Hendrick said. “The kids are learning the lessons we need to learn on how to win. We still have some things to learn, but we are coming together. We are discovering who we are and the things we can do. We are positioning ourselves to be better going forward.”