"I grew up out on Coal Mountain. We had two channels on TV, and there wasn't anything else for me to do," Christian told me on the first day of 2010 preseason practices. "That's what we did for fun: We went out and played football. A lot of kids who would have been playing then don't play now, and a lot of them that do don't want to put the work in."
Monday, Christian said that his job is to facilitate the transition that turns a student into a student-athlete.
"All I can do is provide them with the opportunity," he said. "I told the kids that I'll be there with them through the season and the three-week period in the spring, and the rest is up to them. They have to be willing to put the work in."
Christian's coaching star was on the rise following SA's 12-2 run to the Super Six in 2007, and even remained so through the rebuilding year of 2008. But while his coaching friend - and fellow weightlifting fanatic - John Messinger stole the spotlight with South Charleston's back-to-back state title-winning years in '08 and '09, St. Albans slipped back into the slumber the program was in when Christian came home in 2004.
Steve Stoffel Jr. took over the SA program last year, and went 2-8 while installing his version of the zone-read spread.
They've got cable TV in Hamlin and in the harder-to-reach spaces of Lincoln County. However, it is not the somewhat pampered atmosphere that has surrounded athletics in some more suburban areas. In fact, there might not be a better place for Christian to make his return to the sidelines.
There's more to the picture as it applies to Lincoln County as a whole. Voters there will decide the fate of a bond Feb. 23 that, if passed, will provide $5 million for the construction of new athletic facilities, including a new football stadium. The Panthers have, to this point, played at Hamlin High's old field.
"It's crucial, and a big step in competing as a triple-A school," Christian said.
That Lincoln County was allowed to leave the Mountain State Athletic Conference prior to the 2012 season without suffering the scheduling moratorium for defectors that is on the league's books allows the Panthers to play smaller schools - SA, Nitro, Winfield, Ripley, etc. - and thus increase the chances Christian can build momentum quickly with his I-formation offense.
That run-heavy method has been a staple of the Panthers' for years, so there won't be the need for an extended transition period for their players to lean a new scheme.
Known for his hard-working off-season regimen, if Christian is able to meld it with an ability to get Lincoln County students out of the halls and onto the playing field, the Panthers could be on the rise in short order.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.tay...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.