Gabe Poe never let his size stop him from making a tackle.
Whether it was at West Oktibbeha County High School, East Mississippi Community College, West Alabama, or North Alabama, Poe made a habit of flying around the football field and being a nuisance on defense. Listed at 5-foot-8, 210 pounds in his final season at North Alabama, Poe led the team with 128 tackles, including 77 solo stops and 10 tackles for loss. He helped lead the team to a 10-3 record, a share of the Gulf South Conference Championship, and a spot in the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs in 2013.
Poe is taking a similar approach in his new line of work: coaching. After spending last season as a graduate assistant linebackers coach at North Alabama, Poe accepted a job Wednesday to become the Lions’ defensive line coach.
“It’s a tribute to the faith my head coach (Bobby Wallace) had in me as a player and as a growing coach I aspire to be,” said Poe, who was an All-Gulf South Conference linebacker. “It has everything to do with hard work, keeping my head down, staying focused, and waiting for the right opportunity and seizing the moment.”
Poe completed his master’s degree in sports management in May at North Alabama. He said he was looking for a job and didn’t know what he was going to do when a position came open on the UNA staff. He said he felt he was a good fit for the job and interviewed. About two days ago, he said he received a phone call that made it official.
“It’s kind of like a change of scenery for me,” Poe said of working with defensive linemen after playing linebacker and coaching the position. “I have been doing a lot of film study and watching tape and reading stuff. The best way to learn about the position and how to coach it is to talk to different people who played defensive line, and whenever I have a question I give them a call.”
A native of Pheba, Poe played linebacker and running back at West Oktibbeha High, where he also lettered in baseball and basketball. He finished in the top three in his class academically.
Poe redshirted as a freshman at EMCC under coach Buddy Stephens. In 2009, Poe was fifth on the team with 84 tackles (53 solo) despite playing mostly as a reserve middle linebacker behind Alvin Ellis. In place of the suspended Ellis, Poe was credited with 26 tackles (21 solos) in a 75-71 victory against Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) state championship game.
Poe played at UWA under Bobby Wallace in 2010 and Will Hall in 2011. A two-year starter, he was named Academic All-GSC in 2011 and earned first-team All-GSC honors. He was inducted into Chi Alpha Sigma National Athlete Honor Society and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from UWA in 2012.
Poe took a year off after graduating from UWA and worked in a physical therapy clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. He said his thought at the time was to become a physical therapist, but he discovered he preferred more of a “hands-on” approach, so he moved to UNA and closed his career with another solid season.
Now that he is a full-time coach, Poe said he will “keep things simple, smart, and effective” with his players. He doesn’t feel it will be a huge transition moving from linebacker to defensive line. After all, he showcased his speed and ability to make plays anywhere on the field as a linebacker, so he feels he will be ready to convey that same sense of passion and attention to detail to his new charges in the trenches.
“When the bullets are flying and it is game time and the parts are moving, you have to have two or three things you can hang you hat on that you’re really good at,” Poe said. “I was good at (keeping things simple, smart, and effective) and I mastered my craft. That is what I tried to convey to my guys when I was a graduate assistant, and that is what I will be teaching and how I will teach it as defensive line coach.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.