Photo courtesy Rex Norris: Rex Norris joins Eatonville High School's football team as the new defensive coordinator. His resume includes coaching football and rugby.
Photo courtesy Rex Norris: Rex Norris joins Eatonville High School's football team as the new defensive coordinator. His resume includes coaching football and rugby.

In the summer of 2017, Eatonville Athletic Director and head football coach Gavin Kralik organized a coaching clinic for the high school, middle school and junior Cruiser football teams to help align the tackling teaching between the three programs. The person he brought in to give the clinic was the vice president of football programming for Atavus Rugby & Football Training, Rex Norris.

Norris taught all the coaches in attendance that day a new style of rugby tackling that focused on improved performance and reduction of head injuries.

Norris is now coming to Eatonville High School as the football team's new defensive coordinator for the upcoming season.

“He is the best defensive coach I know, from a fundamental standpoint, scheme standpoint and his ability to connect and motivate kids,” Kralik said. “He excels in all of those areas.”

Norris has a very lengthy football resume in his back pocket. For the past two seasons he has been the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach for Tahoma High School. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Kentwood High School from 2004-14 where he amassed a record of 86-30. He spent eight seasons as an assistant before becoming the head coach at Kentwood, as well as three years coaching in his home state of Texas. This upcoming season will be his 25th season coaching football.

During his time with Kentwood, aside from the winning record, Norris received a number of other honors. He was named head coach of the year in 2010 and 2012. Kentwood also had 14 all-state players during Norris’s tenure. Kentwood won the league title five times and was runner up the other six years under Norris.

Norris has also coached various boys and girls rugby teams including the Kent Crusaders. In 1992, he helped start the first high school girls rugby team in the country. He has led both boys and girls Crusader teams to 15 state titles and placed in the top four at nationals four times.

A few local Eatonville athletes have played for the Crusader rugby program. Madison Jumper and McKenzie Jumper both played and are now playing women's college rugby. More recently, Trevor Schier, from Eatonville football, played for Norris and the Crusaders. His sister, Sadie, and Celeste Chua are currently playing.

“The thing I appreciate most about Rex is that he is a heart-driven coach,” Kralik said. “He is intentional about using his role as a coach to positively impact the kids.”

Norris said he chose to come to Eatonville because he has known Kralik awhile, and they have exchanged ideas and shared philosophy for the past few years.

“I think that Gavin is talented and coaches for the right reasons,” Norris said. “Having kept in touch, we have had mutual interest in working together. However, I did not think that would happen because of the timing and life situations. My family and I talked about me not teaching during the fall of my daughter’s senior year so I planned to stick to that promise. However, the past five months have been unprecedented, and circumstances around work and football have created a great opportunity for Kralik and me to work together in the spring.”

Norris does not plan to teach in Eatonville at this time.

“I have always taught where I have coached, so this will be the first time for that not to be the case,” Norris said. “If a teaching opportunity comes open in the coming year, my family and I will look forward to discussing the possibilities.”

The Cruisers are tentatively scheduled to start practice Feb. 17, 2021, under the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association's new modified sports season caused by the current pandemic.

The Cruisers' first game is tentatively scheduled for March 5. The opponent and location has not yet been determined.