For Eddie James, home is where the heart is.
James announced Saturday he was taking the head football coaching job at Highlands, and he was introduced as the school’s new coach at a reception Sunday in Fort Thomas.
On Tuesday he said he’s staying at FCHS as the head football coach and teacher.
“The first decision was gut-wrenching,” James said about accepting the Highlands job. “When I step back, am I coaching football for wins or losses, or am I coaching football for the people?
“At the end of the day, it’s about the people for us. These kids have left an impression on my heart and my family, and our work here is not done.”
James, a 2005 graduate of FCHS, led the Flyers to the Class 4A state championship game this season, losing to Boyle County in overtime.
“My peace comes with the knowledge I never intentionally misled anyone,” he said. “I made the decision, and being introduced as their coach Sunday, it was very nice.
“It’s a great community, and I know they’ll have great success and find the right person for the job. When you give every ounce of yourself to something, you can’t just walk away from it.”
Franklin County Schools Superintendent Mark Kopp was pleased to hear about James’ decision.
“We’re obviously extremely happy that Coach James has elected to continue working with our students and staff at Franklin County High School,” Kopp said.
“Both Eddie and his wife, Nikki, are outstanding teachers, and Eddie is one of the best coaches in the state. We’re so excited for him to continue inspiring and leading our student-athletes.”
James is employed as a PASS (Positive Approach to Student Success) coach at FCHS, a position that involves behavior monitoring and coaching support for students and teachers. Nikki James is a special education teacher in the district.
“I know I represent the school on the athletic side,” James said, “but teaching is very important, and we want to be good at it.”
James said the decision to stay was made Monday night into Tuesday morning.
“Nikki and I have had some heart-to-heart conversations about family and what family is,” he said. “It’s not just the four of us who live under this roof.”
The couple has a daughter, Ava, 6, and a son, Jax, 3.
“We’ve had a lot of people support us,” James said. “People have stepped up to babysit; we lived in our booster club president’s house when our house was being built. Family is bigger than the four of us.”
James said a talk with Terry Johnson, who’s been teaching at FCHS for more than 40 years, helped with his decision.
“Terry said something that really stuck out to me and helped clarify the situation,” he said. “He said there’s a difference in being where you think you’re supposed to be and being where you’re called to be.
“This is where I’m called to be.”
“We know this has been a difficult week for Coach James and his family,” FCHS Athletics Director Tracy Spickard said. “He has our full support in his decision to stay home and continue to lead our program.
“The student-athletes, football program, school and community mean the world to Coach James. We look forward to the future of our program, but most importantly, the continued lifelong positive impact he has on kids.”
James has been the Flyers’ head coach for four years, amassing a 35-12 record. Franklin County won its first regional crown in 41 years this season and made its first appearance in a state championship game.
“Winning a state championship would be awesome,” he said, “but that’s only part of the work. We want these kids, when they leave here, to be productive members of society.
“We want them to be good people, good husbands, good fathers, and football is the tool we’re using to get the job done.”