As a quarterback at Frankston High School, new Melissa head football coach Matt Nally had high hopes of being a signal-caller in college. But after a year trying to make the team at Tyler Junior College he hung up the cleats and transferred to the University of North Texas where he graduated in 2003.
“There’s not a lot of use for a 5-9, 175-pound QB,” Nally, 38, said recently. “That’s what I really wanted to do, but I didn’t have that opportunity.”
Another draw to UNT at the time was his girlfriend-now-wife Julie, who was attending Texas Woman’s University.
Nally’s first coaching job was offensive coordinator for Class 1A Cayuga, near Palestine. “My first year we were 0-10,” he said. “And I thought, ‘My gosh. If this is coaching, I don’t want to do this anymore.’”
But the next year, the Wildcats experienced an influx of talent including 1A Player of the Year Traylon Shead, who went on to play at Texas and SMU; and Malcolm Kennedy, who played for Texas A&M and the New Orleans Saints. “We just had a ton of talent on those teams,” Nally said of the group that went on to win a state title in 2009.
Nally had returned to coach at Frankston in 2006, after three seasons at Cayuga running the Offset-I and the Wing-T. He was Frankston’s defensive coordinator for two seasons, with the Indians winning a district co-championship in 2007.
After a coaching change, Nally moved over to offensive coordinator where he ran the split-back Veer, then the Wing-T out of the spread. His third year as OC, the Indians went 10-2, falling to state-finalist Lexington in the second playoff round.
That next summer, after another coaching change, Nally was promoted to head coach.
Frankston went 4-6 his first year as the helm, with the No. 1-rated offense in East Texas. The Indians made playoffs a year later in a tough realigned district - again with the top-rated East Texas offense. That team was led by receiver Kendrick Rogers who now plays at Texas A&M.
In Nally’s third and final season at Frankston, the team narrowly missed the playoffs after losing a shoot-out with Arp in the final week.
Nally recalled that current Melissa ISD Superintendent Keith Murphy, who was superintendent at Frankston while Nally was there, had told him to call if ever interested in a position at Melissa.
“I really wasn’t looking to do that,” Nally said. “At the time, I had a friend who was [running backs] coach at UNT and they offered me a job.” But after a week there he said he realized the college game’s hours weren’t for him. “I wanted to be a dad,” Nally said. “That’s my biggest deal. Coaching college football, people do it all the time. It just wasn’t in the cards for me.”
Nally contacted then-Melissa head coach Seth Stinton and the rest is Cardinals history.
Offense, Nally said, has always been his niche.
“I really enjoy the aspect of the RPO [run-pass-option]. In our [spread] offense, there’s going to be a play where we won’t block the nose or we won’t block an end or we won’t block the Mike [linebacker] and we’ll read those guys. We’ll read the boundary safety … and throw an RPO.”
Nally counts as key influencers of his approach to offense — and coaching, in general — former Gilmer offensive coordinator Mike Maddox, current Gilmer head coach Matt Turner and Nally’s AD at Cayuga, Glenn Goen.
“I took what I learned from him and what I learned from Mike Maddox and Matt Turner and kind of melted it together. A lot of people say I’m ‘old school’ in regard to fall camp and practice. I guess so.”
Nally said he still travels to Gilmer once a year to visit with Turner. His current mentor is Mike Meador, the AD at Lindale. “I learned at a young age, you don’t know everything. There’s a whole lot of football out there.”
On Aug. 30 at Liberty Christian in Argyle, Nally will take the field as Cards’ new head coach, armed with all he’s learned. “We’ve got great kids at Melissa,” he said. “They don’t just want to be good — they expect to be good.”