Alex Urquhart’s orientation finished around 2:20 p.m. But as he left the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center Thursday, Woodbridge High School’s new head football coach kept moving. There was no down time.
He hopped into his truck and drove to Woodbridge, where he needed to pick up keys and meet a recruiter from Old Dominion University.
And then at some point, he returned to his temporary home in Alexandria, where he and his wife Nia are settling in for the moment as they find a permanent dwelling, while waiting on their furniture to arrive from Texas.
“I’m getting tired of sleeping on an air mattress,” Urquhart said.
Since beginning his job Jan. 21 teaching special education at West Gate Elementary in Manassas, the 29-year-old Dallas Texas native has hit the ground running. Woodbridge announced his hire the day he started at West Gate and he met the Woodbridge players the following afternoon.
Urquhart planned on coming to this area whether he had a coaching job or not. His wife wanted to move closer to her family in Richmond. As she searched for a job as an educator (Nia is now a special education teacher at Glen Forest Elementary in Fairfax County), so did Urquhart.
During his research, he discovered Woodbridge needed a head football coach.
His first opportunity as a head coach came in January, 2017 when Leto High School in Tampa (FL.) hired him to oversee its program. But six months later, Urquhart left that position before ever coaching a game to move to Dallas and tend to his ill mother.
“The thought crossed my mind,” Urquhart said of possibly never having this opportunity again. “They say you have a 1.6 chance of being a head coach.”
Urquhart flew out in early December to meet face to face with Woodbridge principal Heather Abney and activities director Jason Eldredge.
While in Virginia, Urquhart also interviewed for Rock Ridge’s head coaching job in Loudoun County.
Although unfamiliar with Northern Virginia football, Urquhart relied on friends of his with local connections to help him understand the area better. One was Gar-Field graduate Andrew Denny, who played with Urquhart at Chowan. The other was Brian Slay, a John Champe assistant who knew Urquhart from their high school days in Georgia.
Having played college football at Missouri State and Chowan and having coached in two high school football hotbeds, Florida and Texas, Urquhart felt confident he had something to offer on the football field.
With an undergraduate degree in history and a master’s degree in education, he also could teach social studies and physical education.
Two panels comprised of parents, staff and students were involved in the interviewing process.
A 10-person panel conducted the first round of interviews and a five-person panel did the same for the three finalists.
Urquhart did not return to Virginia after his initial meeting with Abney and Eldredge. He did phone interviews instead.
Eldredge said Urquhart’s athletic and academic credentials factored into his hiring. So did the fact he was not from the area.
“We wanted a different perspective with no biases or perceptions of our program,” said Eldredge, who received applications from North Carolina, Louisiana, West Virginia and Maryland as well. “We wanted there to be an honest evaluation so there were no preconceptions coming in.”
Urquhart’s predecessor, Gary Wortham, resigned his position at the end of the season in November over what he deemed was a lack of support from the Woodbridge administration regarding recruiting allegations lodged against his program. Wortham led the Vikings for five seasons.
During his interviews, Urquhart said he heard nothing about Wortham’s departure. Instead, Urquhart, who turns 30 in September, said the focus was on Woodbridge’s tradition and how family and community-oriented it was.
“I’m going to start building our program and what we need to do for the future,” Urquhart said. “I have no control over what happened prior to me.”
As they got familiar with each other at their initial meeting Jan. 22, the main question players asked Urquhart centered on recruiting.
“They wanted to know how I can help in that process,” said Urquhart, who will teach at Woodbridge in the fall. “I told them I have the experience at that next level. The coaches are not going to stop coming because there is a tradition of athletes here.”
Woodbridge’s top returner is junior defensive lineman James Gillespie, who holds at least 13 offers and is ranked the No. 9 player in Virginia by 247Sports for the class of 2021.
“[Urquhart) brings a lot to the table,” Eldredge said. “He’s great motivator and that’s what we need.”