Can Estes Rebuild Another Struggling Program?

Interim coach aims to instill Patriots with confidence, work ethic

Bobby Estes admits the call asking him to return to the sidelines caught him in a moment of weakness.

One year into retirement after coaching more than two decades in Dallas ISD, Estes was working at a golf course in Rowlett. Was he interested in helping as an assistant coach at Thomas Jefferson? Estes couldn’t turn it down.

He didn’t know that a few weeks later, head coach Kenny Jones would leave for a job outside the district — and Estes suddenly was a head coach again, if only on an interim basis.

“When I received that phone call, I was watering trees and wasn’t doing a lot of meaningful work, except maybe for that tree,” Estes said. “Working with these young men is meaningful work.”

Estes has 147 victories in 25 seasons, including 22 years at Woodrow Wilson, where his teams won seven district titles. After leaving Woodrow in 2019, he moved to North Dallas, where he steered the notoriously struggling program to the playoffs twice in three seasons.

That experience could serve Estes well at TJ, which has earned just four wins in the past seven seasons combined. The Patriots haven’t qualified for postseason play since 2002. They finished 1-9 last year.

In addition, participation numbers remain an issue at a campus that suffered through a relocation and rebuild following a devastating 2019 tornado.

“These kids have been through a lot,” Estes said. “I admire their perseverance and heart.”

Approaching the season has been hectic, with Estes trying to learn personnel, install schemes, and develop chemistry with his staff just weeks before kickoff.

“It’s been like drinking from a fire hose a little bit, brushing up on Thomas Jefferson football. This is going to be a learning process,” Estes said. “We’re going to continue to coach these kids and push them to prepare for the season.”

The Patriots will lack size and depth but have some experience in returnees Jovani Soberanes, Julian Rios, Noah St. Romain, and Jeremiah Alexander.

As for Estes, he’s unsure if he will be at TJ for just one year, as the interim title would suggest, or if he’ll want to keep going. But he plans to enjoy the ride.

“It’s been a blessing. The young men are responding,” he said. “For the next three months, I’m going to coach my tail off.”

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