Football: Tolleson named to take over Ryan’s defense

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The man who commanded Ryan’s defense for the last 14 years decided it was time to vacate his office. His replacement will slide down the hall in the Ryan fieldhouse into the empty space, hoping to continue the Raiders’ tradition of playing good defense.

Shane Tolleson has been named Ryan’s defensive coordinator. Tolleson, who is in his second year at the school, replaces David Thomas, who held the position for the previous 14 years.

Tolleson, formerly the team’s linebackers coach, said he wants to carry on Thomas’ effective 4-2-5 defensive scheme and the success it has enjoyed over the years.

“Obviously, I’m going to bring my own mentality to the defense and my passion and my enthusiasm,” Tolleson said. “However, the Ryan mentality and the Ryan way is not going to change. It’s been successful here for far too long, and I’m not going to come in here and try to fix something that isn’t broken.”

In 2000, Thomas came to Ryan along with former head coach Joey Florence. Florence was named Denton ISD’s athletic director in February, and his longtime coordinator followed suit into the district’s athletic offices off Long Road.

“I helped him put this thing together for 14 years,” Thomas said. “He’s leaving, and I’m leaving, too. It wasn’t that difficult of a decision. That decision was made when he accepted being the athletic director.”

Thomas’ 32 years as a defensive coordinator will be replaced by Tolleson, who will be a defensive coordinator for the first time in his career. Tolleson was previously a college assistant coach at Arkansas State and Southern Arkansas before joining former Ryan assistant coach Eugene Rogers at Haltom.

The former standout linebacker at Corsicana and former linebacker and fullback at Arkansas State found out he was going to be Thomas’ successor on his 34th birthday. He was excited.

“I don’t know how many they interviewed,” Tolleson said. “I know it was a lot. I probably wasn’t the first choice, but I don’t care if I was the 53rd choice. I want to be the defensive coordinator at Ryan. Period.”

Ryan head coach Dave Henigan, a former Ryan offensive coordinator, said one of the reasons he was tabbed to replace Florence was because of familiarity with the program. Hengian said he interviewed plenty of qualified people outside of Ryan’s program for the opening on the coaching staff, but he felt Tolleson fit with what the Raiders were wanting.

“Ultimately, that decision, some of it was continuity,” Henigan said. “But I really felt like he was the best fit for us and for me. Certainly continuity is one of the pieces, but it’s not the whole piece.”

The first-year Ryan head coach said he plans on finding Tolleson’s replacement within the next few weeks. Right before Tolleson’s hiring was made official last week, the Ryan assistant was at a coaching clinic at North Texas, soaking up information knowing he could be the new leader of the Raiders’ defense.

Henigan said Tolleson’s defense will be asked to be great from the outset, and the program’s lofty expectations for its defense will continue. Tolleson said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Coming to Denton Ryan, the expectation every year is to win championships,” Tolleson said. “I wouldn’t want the defensive coordinator job if that expectation wasn’t there. I believe in surrounding myself with great people, great coaches, and that’s what gravitated me toward Ryan.”

BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.


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