KATY MAGAZINE l JUNE 2019
By Jennifer Miko
Coach Christopher Dudley, 39, returns to Cougar Country to build on the school’s football legacy. The CRHS football legacy was built over 20-years under Coach Don Clayton’s leadership. Clayton announced his retirement on April 15 of this year, finishing his career with the Cougars 141-78.
Growing Up in a Football Town
Dudley hails from the Northeast, and first played football in Erie, PA. At eight years old, he was the quarterback for the Bay City Chargers, whose games were actually broadcast on local TV.
“I remember reading a Sports Illustrated excerpt of ‘Friday Night Lights’ back in 1990 as an 11-year-old and thinking of how cool that would be to see a game in Texas.”
He continued to follow his passion for football, and played at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. The Dukes reached the conference championships twice while he was on the team.
The Reality of Texas Football
Growing up in western Pennsylvania, Dudley followed (and admits he’s still pretty loyal to) the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s also a huge Iowa Hawkeyes fan because he lived there for a couple years as a young boy. Dudley does have a local favorite in H-Town, the University of Houston Cougars.
The first Texas football game Dudley actually watched in person was Lufkin-Katy back in 2002 when he relocated to the Lone Star state. His brother Randy Woodring, Athletic Coordinator at Stockdick Junior High, was coaching in Katy at the time.
“There were a lot of opportunities and I knew Texas was the place to be for serious football,” says Dudley. “I knew at a pretty early age that I wanted to get into coaching.”
Coaching in Katy
That year, Coach Dudley was hired as a teacher at Taylor High School and a football coach at West Memorial Junior High. Dudley learned from Coach Dycus and Coach Turney at WMJH who served as mentors to him that first year.
“I was transferred to Cinco Ranch that second year for teaching,” Coach Dudley says, “but was able to get a volunteer spot on Coach Clayton’s staff.”
When Dudley joined Coach Don Clayton at Cinco Ranch High School, he was determined to prove he was reliable and dependable. “I always wanted to show initiative and not just wait around to be told what to do,” Dudley says. “I’ve always tried to do that and take great pride in whatever task or assignment is given to me, on and off the field and most importantly, in the classroom.”
Over the years, Dudley learned from Coach Clayton, who started the football program at CRHS in 1999 when the school first opened.
“Coach Clayton always stressed to build relationships with your kids, and in turn, they will trust you and be coachable. If you build that relationship, they will respond to you coaching them hard.”
Dudley served as the CRHS varsity position coach from July 2003 to February 2018. He helped create a successful football program there and helped the Cougars reach the state semifinals in 2009 and 2016.
During the 2018-2019 school year, Dudley completed his first season as the Assistant Head Coach, Defensive Coordinator and Health Education teacher at Taylor High School. The Mustang defense gave up just 18.3 points per game, which was ninth best out of 64 playoff teams in Class 6A Region 3. Dudley was also a nominee as the 2019 Greater Houston Area Football Coaches Association (GHFCA) Assistant Coach of the Year.
The Life-changing Phone Call
Dudley remembers when CRHS Principal James Cross called his home to offer him the head coaching position. “It was a surreal experience, I didn’t have a lot of words other than, ‘Wow, thank you.’ It took a little bit of time to sink in,” Dudley recalls. His wife Chemeka was there with him to share the excitement, and then Dudley called his parents to share the news.
Coach Dudley and his wife Chemeka.
“It is a dream come true to be able to come back to the Cinco Ranch community, one that I was a part of for 15 years, and serve in this role. There are so many great relationships that have been built over the years, and a great sense of familiarity.”
When Coach Dudley stepped into Coach Clayton’s former office, he found an interesting gift. “He knows I am an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan,” Dudley recalls. “So naturally he left a Dallas Cowboys notepad and pen for me. He did leave some other items that would help aid in the transition, so that was good.”
Coach Clayton sincerely wishes Dudley well in his new position: “I’m very happy for Chris. As an assistant for fifteen years, he knows the culture of CRHS Athletics and I feel he fully appreciates it.”
Big Shoes to Fill
“Coach Clayton built the athletic program from scratch and did a tremendous job over the last 20 years,” Dudley says. “You look at things on a day to day basis through a different lens now being in this position. We have a proud football program that has been successful for many years. The whole athletic program is one of the elite ones in the state of Texas. I look forward to working side by side with so many great coaches and to support their programs in the best way I can.” Dudley has already met with some of the CRHS football players and recognized many juniors and seniors from his previous years on the coaching staff. “I was excited to stand in front of them with the maroon and white on again,” says Dudley. “It felt good.”
The new coach also knows that these players have developed since he coached them last, and he looks forward to watching them over the summer during the Strength and Conditioning camps.
Looking Ahead For the upcoming season, Dudley says the team will strive for balance with a strong passing and running game. “If you are to be successful, you have to be able to run and pass effectively,” Dudley says. “We have players at all positions that can help us accomplish that.” Dudley says his message to his players is simple: “Our football program has a great tradition and they should embrace and be proud of it. We have every opportunity to be as successful as past Cougar teams who have made the playoffs and made runs deep into December. The ingredients needed are hard work, discipline, high effort, and being coachable. Above all though, we need to continue to build our team for 2019 because that is all we can control right now. We are not a finished product, and I am excited to see these guys continue that process.”
Building on the Legacy “We celebrated 20 years of great memories during last season, now we have the opportunity to make our own memories and leave a lasting legacy on CRHS for years to come,” Dudley says. “I hope to see the stands packed on game nights and Cougar pride to be on display from all of our fans, whether they have sons on this year’s team, or from those that graduated years ago.”
“It is a great opportunity for (Chris) and I know he fully intends to continue the tradition of excellence that is expected at CRHS,” says Coach Clayton. “I’m always a phone call away if he has any questions.”
On the Sidelines Dudley and his wife Chemeka will celebrate their eight-year wedding anniversary this summer. They live in Katy with Tyler their 10-year old poodle and Khloe their nine-year-old yorkie.
Dudley's dogs, Tyler and Khloe.
When he’s not coaching, Dudley still follows sports as an avid historian. He says he’s always looking up stories and stats online from old newspapers.
Let's Go Cougars! This summer, Dudley will work with his coaching staff and team to prepare for the Cougar's next season. The CRHS community will be ready to cheer and rally them to victory.
“Those that have been a part of the Cinco Ranch culture are a proud group of people, it is a brand that stands for success academically and athletically,” says Dudley. “The staff and the kids make it a special place to be. I couldn’t be happier.”