When one has been around Tennessee Tech as long as Dewayne Alexander has been, it begins to feel like home.
Alexander went to school at Tech, played football at Tech, coached as an assistant coach for the Golden Eagles and was even the acting head coach after Watson Brown stepped down following the 2015 season.
While he didn't follow in Brown's shoes then, that didn't deter Alexander.
After all, Tennessee Tech is home for him.
On Friday morning, as he is announced as the Golden Eagle football team's 12th all-time head coach and the welcome mat is rolled out for Alexander, he's returning to a place that is near and dear to him and is determined to lead the Golden Eagles to championships.
"I'm honored," Alexander said. "I feel very blessed. It's exciting and I'm just so humbled by the whole thing. I couldn't be more appreciative of (university president) Dr. (Phil) Oldham and (Tech director of athletics) Mark Wilson giving me the opportunity."
There is hardly any doubt in the fact that Dewayne Alexander is the epitome of a Tech guy.
"It is an excellent fit," Wilson said. "He loves Tennessee Tech. He truly bleeds purple and gold. He is the head coach to build a winning program here, can build a championship-level program, but do everything right with a commitment to academic excellence, a commitment to developing our football student-athletes as a whole person and provide great service to our community."
But while he hardly had enough time to warm up the head coach's chair two years ago, the opportunity to take the reins this time around is certainly a welcome one.
"I hadn't been there long enough," Alexander laughed. "It feels good. I'm just anxious to get started, ready to get started. I'm trying to get in touch with all of our players – hopefully some of them will be at the press conference -- but I want to talk to them, talk to their families, put one foot in front of the other and take Tennessee Tech football where I know it can go."
With the research into where the program stands, as well as his past experience at Tech, for Alexander to say he's excited may be an understatement.
"I'm a product of Tennessee Tech," he said. "I have two degrees from Tech. I'm a former player. The one thing that has always made Tennessee Tech special is the people. It's an amazing group, the continuity is special, and it's something we want to do with the football team. We need very good staff continuity, we need enthusiasm and inject it into the program and I think we're ready to do that.
"But I think the thing that impressed me the most in this whole process was the number of people who have just strong feelings for Tennessee Tech and I have always felt that it is the people that make Tech special. I've been associated with Tech since 1983 in some form or fashion on and off, but the people have always made Tech what it is."
It's that family atmosphere that's really made it hard for Alexander to stay away.
"Absolutely," Alexander said. "From the top to the bottom in the athletic administration, that is definitely true. I know all of those people very well, they're people I've worked with in the past and I really feel comfortable being around them. During the interview process, it was almost like I've never left. It's very good to be a part of that.
"And Tech and Cookeville have been a great place for my family. I graduated from Tech, my son (Hayden) is in graduate school here, my daughter Kate was born at Cookeville Regional back in 2000. It's home. It's always had a family atmosphere and been a second home for me and my family."
One of the biggest positives for Alexander is his many connections in football, not just from his roots in the Upper Cumberland, but throughout the country.
"He has great connections throughout the state of Tennessee and the southeast in recruiting," Wilson said. "He's been a high school coach, a collegiate head coach, a collegiate assistant coach. He has tremendous connections that will help us in recruiting, and I know the staff that he's working to put together will be a great staff, a strong staff that will do great things as they build a championship football program together here at Tennessee Tech."
Alexander added, "I've been blessed with the time I've spent in Cookeville and the Upper Cumberland. From coaching the Bees at Upperman High School, coaching at Jackson County High School, I'm very proud of that, proud of spending time in those communities and glad to still have a lot of friends and connections and familiar faces that I know and keep in touch with. It's just going to be so exciting getting back to living in this area full-time. I just can't wait to get here."
Of course, he's no stranger to being the head coach, putting together a successful tenure at Cumberland University, and that experience brings quite a bit to the table.
"It brings a lot, because I have been a head coach on both the high school and college levels," Alexander said. "When I took over at Cumberland, the program was going through some adversity. I was their third head coach in four years and they had some struggles. I know what that looks like to rebuild football programs – I did it at Wilson Central High School as the head coach and I was able to do it at Cumberland University and get the program going in the right direction.
"I've been there and done that when it comes to those kinds of situations. Here at Tennessee Tech, we have a tremendous amount of resources. We have a great community, a great university to recruit to and I feel like we're going to be able to get this program moving in the right direction real, real soon."
And the burning question on most fans' minds is probably this: what will it take to make Tech a winning program?
"By recruiting and stabilizing our current roster," Alexander said. "We have to recruit. We are going to go all in on recruiting. We're going to hire a staff of recruiters. To me, we've got a great area to recruit to. We host the TSSAA state championship games. That's what it's going to take – recruiting and doing things right in our program, whether it's in the weight room, on the field, off the field. We're going to hire good coaches who will do right by our players and work extremely hard. I'm a big believer that if we're doing things the right way on and off the field, the wins will take care of themselves. They always have wherever I've been."
On the side of Tucker Stadium, there's the large banner that reads 'Champions are made here.' Alexander is definitely believer in that.
"There is so much truth in that," Alexander said. "What an awesome thing it is for us to host the TSSAA state championships. I look back at the 2011 Tech team who won the OVC championship and went to the FCS playoffs, and, in that same year, won the academic award in the OVC. That's what Tennessee Tech is all about. That's what being a student-athlete at Tennessee Tech is all about. It's being very competitive in the classroom and playing championship-caliber football. That's what we're going to do."
It's hard to question Alexander's experience – a career that has spanned nearly 30 years.
Alexander returns to Tech following a season as the offensive line coach for East Tennessee State, helping the Buccaneers continue their rebuilding phase after the Johnson City school restarted its football program. Among his players were All-Southern Conference offensive lineman Alex Rios.
A 1989 graduate of Tech with a bachelor's degree in political science, followed by a master's in educational leadership in 1998, Alexander lettered for three seasons with the Golden Eagles from 1985 to 1987.
Following his graduation, he became an assistant coach at his prep alma mater, Hendersonville (Tenn.) High, between 1989 and 1996. He then became the head coach, assistant principal and athletic director at Jackson County (Tenn.) High from 1996 to 1997, leading the Blue Devils to a playoff berth.
From 1997 to 1998, Alexander returned to Tech as a graduate assistant, overseeing running backs. Then, from 1998 to 2001, he moved just down the road to nearby Baxter as he became the head coach, assistant principal and athletic director at Upperman High (Tenn.)
From 2001 to 2002, Alexander then moved to Gallatin as an offensive coordinator, leading the Green Wave to a 10-3 record and an appearance in the TSSAA state quarterfinals.
The 2002 season saw a return to Cookeville as he became the Golden Eagles' defensive line coach, where he oversaw D.J. Bleisath, who was an All-OVC selection, a Buck Buchanan Award finalist, and later a Tech Sports Hall of Famer.
From 2003 to 2005, Alexander took over the reins of a Wilson Central (Tenn.) team that had gone 0-20 in its previous two seasons. By his second season, the Wildcats had a winning record. By his third, WCHS was 10-2 with the school's first-ever playoff win and a fifth place ranking in the final Associated Press Tennessee prep poll.
In January 2006, Alexander became the head coach at Cumberland University. The NAIA program had only won four games in the previous three years and he was able to lead the team to its first conference championship in 61 years as the then-Bulldogs (the team has since rebranded as the Phoenix) won the Mid-South Conference championship.
While at Cumberland, he was named the American Football Coaches Association's NAIA Region 1 Coach of the Year (2010) and the Tennessee Sports Writers Association's Coach of the Year (2011). That same season, CU ranked 14th nationally, its highest mark in 13 seasons. Between the span of 2010 and 2012, the Bulldogs won 23 games, the best stretch in the program's then-76-year history. During that time, the team was ranked three straight years in the NAIA Top 25 for the first time.
In 2012, Cumberland led the nation with 16 NAIA Daktronics Scholar Athletes (with a 3.5 grade point average or better) and led the MSC with 31 conference scholar-athletes (3.25 GPA or better).
During his tenure at Cumberland, he recruited 44 first-team all-conference players, three first-team all-Americans, five national players of the week and the 2012 MSC Offensive Player of the Year in Lemeco Miller.
In 2013, Alexander returned to Tech, joining head coach Watson Brown's staff as an assistant head coach and offensive line coach, a role he held until December 2015 as he became the acting head coach after Brown's retirement and oversaw the program until Marcus Satterfield was hired in January 2016.
But during Alexander's next tenure with the Golden Eagles, he coached two all-OVC offensive linemen in Wesley Sherrill and Charles Mouton. He also oversaw recruiting efforts in the Upper Cumberland, Middle Tennessee, Georgia and Southern California.
After Satterfield's hiring, Alexander returned for one season at Cumberland as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks and running backs coach for the Phoenix. He followed that up with his latest stop at East Tennessee State.
Alexander has also been the NAIA representative on the American Football Coaches Association's Ethics Committee (2010-2013), a member of the AFCA All-American Committee (2012), a conference rater for the NAIA Coaches' Poll (2012), the head coach for the East team in the 2010 NAIA All-Star Game, and serves on the board of directors for the Nashville, Tenn., chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame from 2008 to the present.
Alexander is joined in Cookeville with his wife, Angela, and they have four children – Hayden (a MBA student at Tech), Kate and twin sons Ross and John.
TENNESSEE TECH HEAD COACHES
Loyall Duyck (1922)
Putty Overall (1923-1946, 1952-1953)
Hooper Eblen (1947-1949)
Star Wood (1950-1951)
Wilburn Tucker (1954-1967)
Don Wade (1968-1982)
Gary Darnell (1983-1985)
Jim Ragland (1986-1995)
Mike Hennigan (1996-2006, Doug Malone served as interim coach in 2006 as Hennigan took a medical leave)
Watson Brown (2007-2015)
Marcus Satterfield (2016-2017)
Dewayne Alexander (2018- )
DEWAYNE ALEXANDER RESUME
Bachelor of Science in Political Science, 1989, from Tennessee Tech
Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, 1998, from Tennessee Tech
1989-1996 -- Hendersonville High School -- Assistant Coach, Teacher
1996-1997 -- Jackson County High School -- Head Football Coach, Assistant Principal, Athletic Director
1997-1998 -- Tennessee Tech University -- Graduate Assistant Running Backs Coach
1998-2001 -- Upperman High School -- Head Coach, Assistant Principal, Athletic Director
2001-2002 -- Gallatin High School -- Offensive Coordinator, Special Education Teacher
2002-2003 -- Tennessee Tech University -- Defensive Line Coach
2003-2005 -- Wilson Central High School -- Head Coach, Teacher
2006-2013 -- Cumberland University -- Head Coach / Offensive Coordinator
2013-2015 -- Tennessee Tech University -- Assistant Head Coach / Offensive Line Coach
Dec. 2015-Jan. 2016 -- Tennessee Tech University -- Acting Head Coach
2016-2017 -- Cumberland University -- Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks and Running Backs Coach
2017 -- East Tennessee State University -- Offensive Line Coach
December 22, 2017 -- Tennessee Tech University -- Head Coach