McALLEN — The position was vacant for 54 days, but on the 55th day, the McAllen ISD School Board approved Patrick Shelby as the next head football coach to guide McAllen’s oldest high school.
He will also serve as school’s athletic coordinator at the high school.
Shelby is hired from his post as Weslaco High’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons.
He’s been a coach at the varsity level in the Rio Grande Valley since 2012 where he helped Michael Salinas and company establish a consistent program.
Shelby has been in the coaching ranks for 11 years, four at the college level and seven as a high school coach. The 2019 campaign will be his first season as a head coach.
“I’ve been around some other programs that (have) been able to do some things and I’ve always been told, since I first moved down here in 2012, how special this school is,” Shelby said. “The purple and gold is something special. It’s been in my life for a long time for me growing up in college at Hardin-Simmons University. It’s like it’s going full circle right now.”
Even though the board was in a closed session from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., the administration building was bustling with parents of students being honored at the elementary level as well as a healthy amount of curious fans anxious for the coaching decision.
Shelby was one of 48 applicants who applied for the job. McAllen ISD Athletic Paula Gonzalez explained that the process was difficult because of the quality of applicants.
“It’s exciting first of all, very exciting,” Gonzalez said after Shelby was introduced to the board and community in attendance. “It’s a difficult process because really you want to get the best fit for McHi and you want to get the best candidate for student-athletes. It’s hard work but I think you can see the rewards; it’s rewarding. It was very difficult bringing those 48 candidates to one and we’re super excited about it.”
He is believed to be the first black head coach in the program’s 100-plus year history. Perhaps fitting that he was tabbed on Martin Luther King Jr Day.
The Vela SaberCats named Shelby offensive coordinator in 2014 and for his final three years at the high school the team went 31-5, establishing themselves as one of the Valley’s premier programs.
In just two years at Weslaco High with Shelby there, the Panthers went from 3-7 in 2017 to 11-2 in 2018 including a trip to the third round of the postseason. Weslaco averaged 35 points per game.
McAllen High ranked last in offensive production in 30-6A in 2018. The Bulldogs averaged 140.1 yards per game and scored 50 points.
Shelby knows that turning the program around within the competitive district won’t come overnight.
“There’s always going to be some type of transition that you work with coming from another school,” Shelby said. “Got to see some kids tonight. I think they’re excited about what’s going. Got to see some people in the community tonight, a lot of pride in what’s going on. And that makes me feel a whole lot better. That gives me a little bit more comfort to see them and the kids to see that there’s a lot of pride and tradition that goes into this thing.”
McAllen High principal Albert Canales explained that Shelby’s demeanor off the field was a factor. He said Shelby will bring a unique “character education program.”
“I think the biggest thing is really to find somebody that has the same care for kids,” Canales said. “That’s probably the most important thing. We know the Xs and Os are important for the winning, but we want somebody to also come in with the same values we’re teaching kids about being good, responsible young men and young women.”
McAllen High was 31-34 in its six years under previous head coach Kevin Brewer. The Bulldogs made the playoffs in four of his six seasons, but have missed the postseason in two of the past three, including the 2018 season.