WSSU’s new man at helm

By John Dell
Updated: December 16, 2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Connell Maynor, who was introduced as Winston-Salem State’s football coach Tuesday, couldn’t help but look around Bowman Gray Stadium and remember 22 years ago.

In August of 1987, he arrived at WSSU as a hot-shot freshman quarterback. He arrived yesterday as a hot-shot young coach expected to turn around a program that went 1-10 last season.

Maynor, 40, was selected by Athletics Director Bill Hayes to put new life into a program that over the past two seasons went 4-18 under Kermit Blount.

“This is something I’ve wanted,” Maynor said about landing his first head-coaching job. “I’m excited and I’m ready to get to work.”

Hayes, who officially doesn’t start at WSSU until Jan. 1, had the coaching search on the fast track. He put together a search committee soon after it was announced on Nov. 18 that Blount would no longer be the coach. It took WSSU less than a month to hire Blount’s replacement.

Hayes said that Maynor, who spent the past 10 seasons as an assistant at Fayetteville State, including the past two as offensive coordinator, had everything he was looking for in hiring the ninth head coach in school history.

Maynor will sign a five-year contract for around $90,000 a year with incentives, according to Hayes. “I’m excited for Connell and his family,” Hayes said. “I know he’s a winner, and I know he has that energy I’ve been talking about. No question, he has a big-time passion for winning and for football, and I know he’ll do an outstanding job.”

Hayes, who was the head coach of the Rams in 1987, recruited Maynor to come to WSSU and it was during that 1987 season that Maynor helped the Rams to the CIAA title.

When Hayes left for N.C. A&T, Maynor followed and went on to become the fourth-leading passer in school history for the Aggies and helped them win the MEAC title in 1991.

It was during Maynor’s time as a player that Hayes discovered just how much Maynor wanted to win.

“He’s got something special inside of him,” Hayes said. “He has a burning desire in his heart to be the best that he can be, and I recognized that early on. I know one thing — he’ll get it done or die trying.”

Maynor is no stranger to success, having won 10 titles as a player or coach in college and in the pro ranks. He had a 12-year career in the Arena Football League.

Over his college and pro career, he combined to pass for over 10,000 yards.

Maynor gave thanks to his family for their support. His wife, Meryl, their 9-year-old daughter, Nicole, and his mother, Lula Cain, and older brother, Craig, were at the news conference yesterday.

“She’s probably the proudest person in this room right now,” Maynor said of his mother, “but what she probably doesn’t know is I’m that much more proud of her because she’s the reason I’m where I am today.”

Maynor’s mother remembers driving Connell to WSSU for the first time in August of 1987. She made that same drive from near Fayetteville on Monday night.

“It’s kind of surreal,” she said. “He’s really wanted to become a head coach and now he’s here. I’m just so excited for him.”

Maynor vividly remembers his first trip to WSSU 22 years ago.

“The school’s about twice the size,” he said. “We didn’t have this great field house or these outstanding facilities, so it’s just great to be back.

“It’s a great opportunity and this is what I want to do.”

While Maynor is consumed by football, he does have other interests. He has a single-digit handicap in golf and once bowled a perfect 300 in 1999. He also has appeared in two football-related movies, Any Given Sunday and Remember the Titans.

Maynor’s first challenge will be to persuade the returning players to stick around. The school halted its drive to Division I, and will compete in Division II and the CIAA next season.

“I know we are coming back down from Division I-AA to Division II and a lot of guys were recruited to play D-I ball,” Maynor said. “…Now they are Division II players.

“We have to get those guys to realize that if you want to win a championship next year; this is the place to be. If you want to transfer and go somewhere else, that’s on you.”

“We are going to win a championship if these guys stay around here.”

The first game in the Maynor Era will be against N.C. A&T, on Sept. 4 in Greensboro. He added fuel to the fire of the already heated rivalry.

“I’m looking forward to it, I can’t wait,” Maynor said. “I played for three years at N.C. A&T and I know it’s a rivalry game and we’re going to be ready. We are going to Aggie Stadium and we’ll come back with a W.”

“They better be ready because I know we will be ready.”