A seamless change.
While the community may have been surprised by last week’s announcement of a head coaching change in the Madisonville football program, those inside the building would describe it as just that: a seamless change.
Rusty Nail, who took over the position prior to the 2016 season, announced he would step aside on Wednesday to focus on his responsibilities as athletic director as well as well as further administrative opportunities at MCISD. Offensive coordinator Russell Urbantke was immediately named his replacement and is now at the helm for the Mustangs.
“At the end of the day, the simplest explanation I can give is that I wanted to continue to feel like I could grow,” said Nail. “I also wanted (Urbantke) to grow and get that opportunity to be a head coach and I wanted it to be here. He has an extreme love for Madisonville and the students here as they do for him.”
Nail entered the business 27 years ago with aspirations to become a baseball coach. He admitted that many people who knew him at a young age would be surprised to learn that he was in charge of a football program.
He worked as an assistant for 14 seasons before he was given the reigns at Mart ISD. During his nine year tenure, he added to the program’s storied legacy with a record of 105-23 and two state championships.
Along with his staff, he has helped transform the attitude within the Mustang program in just three seasons. He led Madisonville to an 11-2 record in 2017 and a trip to the Regional Playoffs. The Mustangs missed the postseason via a tiebreaker this season in one of the state’s most competitive districts.
“It was not that big of a deal for those of us on the inside,” said Nail. “People on the outside may have been surprised. Everyone is looking for some kind of discord but there is not any. This was about a win-win-win situation for Rusty Nail, Russell Urbantke and MCISD.”
While focusing on his ever-growing responsibilities as athletic director, Nail will try to grow and implement programs that have helped his players become successful on the football field. Along with others at the school, Nail is working on a mentor program to assist struggling kids in every level of the MCISD community. The program is currently in the works and is called ‘Transcendence.’
“It will also allow me to be more involved in some of the girls programs,” said Nail. “We have no issues in those sports, we have tremendous coaches leading those programs, but there are some character things we do with the boys that I have been trained in that I think the girls could really benefit from as well. At the end of the day, my career has never been about football. Football was what I used as a a platform for what my purpose is: to help kids and coaches.”
Meanwhile, Coach Russell Urbantke will now live out a lifelong dream of his own. In 2006, Urbantke was Nail’s first hire as offensive coordinator when he took over at Mart.
He comes from a family of educators. Urbantke’s father was a longtime superintendent and football coach in his hometown of Riesel. He got his start as a student teacher at Lorena ISD, where he was soon hired and became a wide receivers and offensive line coach for a total of five years before accepting the position at Mart.
After a season under Nail, he was hired as an offensive coordinator at Lake Highland, where he worked for eight seasons. He then left with his head coach at the time to hold the same position at Plano West. Despite a good situation, Urbantke did not like how far his work was from his wife Lisa and daughters, Brynlee and Avery. He then jumped at the opportunity to move back to a small town atmosphere and work under his friend Rusty Nail once again. This time, it was Madisonville.
“I am a country boy and I grew up in a place like this,” said Urbantke. “The two biggest things were my family, and coming to work for Rusty because I knew what he was about. It was not that my situation was bad, but I had an opportunity where I could have lunch with my daughter.”
Urbantke ran the offense for the Mustangs and does not anticipate a drastic change in his responsibilities other than his official title of head coach. While the speculation of the coaching change continues outside of the building, Urbantke and the Mustangs are focused on getting stronger for the 2019 season.
“We were in the toughest district in the state of Texas,” said Urbantke. “We were in fifth place, tied for fourth, and we have to bridge that gap. And it has already started. We need to get a leg up on our competition by winning in the weight room everyday.”
Despite a few key departures, the program will not have to replace the same number of starters they did after the conclusion of the 2017 playoff run. Offseason workouts are underway and the players continue to buy into the attitude the staff instilled three years ago.
Urbantke will also continue his duties as the Madisonville track coach.
Meanwhile, no one should be surprised to see Nail involved in the football program in the years to come.
“He enjoys helping coaches be better,” said Urbantke. “He loves working with the kids and he is still going to be involved. The gains some of our kids have made under (Nail) are incredible.”
No additional coaches have been hired nor have more funds been allotted for this transition.