Southern University Coaching Staff Sparks Culture Shift

Coach Chris Clark creates a philosophy that transcends the football field.

Written by Thomas Scott

July 29, 2019

Baton Rouge, LA | The Southern University football tradition speaks for itself. Since their first season in 1916, the Jaguars have won 19 SWAC Championships and sent over 70 former players to the NFL. To this day, the Jaguar culture is defined by winning championships with excellence both on and off the field.

Coaches Chris Clark and Ashton Warner are contributing to Southern’s rich history with a new philosophy, simply referred to as the “Culture Shift”. Together, the pair hopes the culture shift will impact Southern University and HBCU athletics for many years to come.

Road to Southern

Before you truly understand the culture shift, you must first understand the young coaches who created it.

Coach Chris Clark pictured middle

Both Chris Clark and Ashton Warner are local products of Baton Rouge and passionate about representing their city with pride. Each coach has overcome their fair share of adversity prior to reaching the positions they hold today.

Clark’s itch for coaching began during his last season as a member of the Southeastern Louisiana University football team. After college, his close friend Kenneth Montgomery convinced Clark to join the Baton Rouge Raiders youth football coaching staff. This experience connecting with youth left a lasting impression on Coach Clark. Eventually, he was offered a coaching position at his alma mater. The grind would pay off when Southern University head coach, Dawson Odums, asked Clark to join his staff.

Coach Warner’s journey to coaching began with a literal bump in the road. At age 18, Warner suffered a bad car accident which caused significant injuries to his shoulder and jaw. Forced to to sit out from football, Warner accepted a job at Glen Oaks High in Baton Rouge. After five long years at the high school level, Warner eventually got a shot with Southern University. Initially, he joined the Southern University football staff as a film crew volunteer. Coach Warner made the most of the opportunity and eventually worked his way up from volunteer to graduate assistant. He recently was promoted from graduate assistant to Southern’s full-time running backs coach.

Together the coaches used their combined experiences to create the “Culture Shift.”

What is Culture Shift?

The term “Culture Shift” came to life while both coaches were busy on the recruiting trail. Essentially, culture shift is about taking the environment you’re in and shifting it for the best possible outcome.

Coach Warner defines the movement as:

Culture shift is our way of trying to educate athletes on the HBCU legends who have made a dynamic impact such as Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Mel Blunt and others…

But also showing them that you can still make it to the professional ranks from HBCU athletics by using the recent success stories of Tarik Cohen, Darius Leonard and Tytus Howard. By changing the narrative and showing people they can make it to the NFL from a HBCU, we’re hoping to influence more highly rated athletes to choose HBCUs when leaving high school.”

Coach Ashton Warner | Running Backs Coach, Southern

Both Coach Clark and Warner have been active promoting the #Culture Shift on social media as shown below, and recruits have begun to take note.

Southern University Legend, Willie Quinn on SportsCenter

2019 Recruiting Class

Perhaps the biggest evidence of the Culture Shift occurred when former LSU Tiger, Davin Cotton, announced his transfer to Southern University in a tweet mentioning Coach Clark.

Other key members of the 2019 recruiting class included local prospect Bertand Carrell. Coach Clark built a special connection with Bertrand during his recruiting process and eventually was able to convince him during his official visit to campus. When asked why he created “Culture Shift” , Coach Clark said:

“I want to change my culture and community and make a huge impact and shift younger kids or anybody who is reading this in the right direction.”

Both Coach Clark and Warner hope their new social media phenomenon will translate to a successful 2019 season and begin to shift the minds of elite athletes to consider playing for HBCUs.

The Southern Jaguars begin their season on August 31st with a game at McNeese State. Follow @BlackBallSports on Twitter and check out the Jaguars official hash tag #UnitedWeRe19n to learn more about what’s going on with Southern University football.

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