The past 60 days have been a whirlwind for the 49er faithful.
A 56-yard game winning field goal created optimism for the future in the Queen City, but ultimately put the finishing touches on the foundation Brad Lambert laid.
Six years and a jump to the FBS later, the former head honcho impacted countless players and souls surrounding the program.
“Words can’t describe how much coach Lambert and the rest of the staff have done for this program and for myself. Coach Lambert did a great job of setting the rock-solid foundation for this program and impacted people far beyond the gridiron. He is a man of great character and integrity and was the perfect man to start this program. He gave me a chance to live out my dream and gave me a scholarship when no other school would. I’m beyond grateful for him and everything he’s done.” – Alex Highsmith, First Team C-USA.
“Coach Lambert gave me the opportunity for success on and off the field, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. He’s a great coach and an even better man.” - Juwan Foggie, Second Team C-USA.
“He gave me an opportunity to play here at Charlotte and that is something I will always cherish. This program is moving in the right direction and before you know it it’s going to be the talk of the city and everyone will be rocking that green and gold. It was truly a blessing to be a part of this program.” - Hasaan Klugh
Moving on from the only coach in program history wasn’t an easy decision for Mike Hill and the Charlotte athletic department, but new Head Coach Will Healy has an opportunity to uncover a gold mine of success.
“There is high praise for this man, not only as a football coach but as a human being. He made an impact obviously recruiting and as a coordinator. He’s clearly a rising star as we talked to everyone around the country,” Mike Hill said in reference to Healy. “There were four characteristics we were looking for in our new head coach. High character and integrity, proven recruiter, teacher and developer of talent, and one who values culture.”
While a 22-48 record over the past six seasons leaves a lot to be desired, the 49ers showed glimpses of a winning culture throughout the 2018 season. Healy’s idea of a winning culture reaches much further than the gridiron.
“We are going to build a family atmosphere. We believe in who we are, we believe in how we are raising a culture and how we are raising these men to be great husbands and fathers,” Healy said. “We believe in the opportunity that comes with being a student-athlete here at Charlotte, and I can’t wait to go along this journey with all of you in this room.”
Finding the perfect fit for the job didn’t fail to provide controversy. Following some unexpected piracy from ECU, the Niners found their guy for the future. A guy that willingly admits that he looks like a 13-year old but brings youthful energy and enthusiasm at levels that have drawn Dabo Swinney comparisons.
High praise from some of the brightest stars in college football has put pressure on Healy and the 49ers, but that pressure comes from understood potential. Football fans realize that Charlotte’s program has an incredibly high ceiling, and whether that leads to double digits in the win column, conference titles, or a stadium filled with 40,000 fans is yet to be determined.
There will be a lot to prove from everyone involved when spring practice begins, and leaves begin to fall. Healy made this clear during his introductory press conference, “If you were an all-conference player, that’s awesome. Be an all-conference player for our staff. If you were a benchwarmer and you want to get playing time, here is the perfect time.”
The countdown is on, and before you know it Charlotte will be taking the field on August 31st against Gardner-Webb, the first game with a new name calling the shots. The non-conference schedule is slated with two tough road games for the 49ers, with the first being a rematch from last season at Kidd Brewer Stadium against Appalachian State, and the second, and tallest task of the season, taking on the defending national champion Clemson Tigers in Death Valley.
Healy brings a winning attitude and unmatched enthusiasm to the Queen City, and with success in the transfer market and an abundance of talent in the surrounding area, the growth of the Charlotte 49ers football program is imminent. Stay tuned as Charlotte puts the pieces together to become bowl eligible for the first time in program history.