LEXINGTON, Ky. – Steve Pardue, longtime head coach at powerhouse LaGrange (Ga.) High School, has become a member of the University of Kentucky football staff as coach of the running backs, UK Coach Joker Phillips announced.
“I’ve watched Steve for a lot of years and how he handles himself as a coach,” Phillips said. “He’s earned the respect of his players and of his fellow coaches through his work on the state boards in Georgia. Being a Kentucky native, he brings a lot to the table in Kentucky and Georgia.”
Pardue joined LaGrange as an assistant coach in 1991 and took over as head coach in 1994. Over the last 17 seasons, Pardue collected 161 wins, including three Class AAA state championships. The Grangers won the state title in 2001 with a 14-0 record and took home back-to-back state crowns in 2003 and 2004, featuring 14-1 and 15-0 records, respectively. LaGrange also won eight regional championships under his guidance. In addition to leading the program as head coach, Pardue coached the running backs for the last 16 seasons.
Pardue has received numerous honors through the years, headlined by a pair of citations: Class AAA Coach of the Decade by the Georgia High School Daily Report and the 2003 Wright Bazemore Award for All-Classification Coach of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta. He received multiple recognitions during the state championship seasons, including Class AAA Coach of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Sportswriters Association, Touchdown Club of Atlanta and the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association. He garnered the GACA Region Coach of the Year Award eight times, in 1996, 1997, 2000-04 and 2006.
Pardue also was recognized as an outstanding educator and was selected as the 2006 Star Teacher at LaGrange High School. In addition, he was active on the state level as vice-president on the board of directors of the GACA and the state football chairman of the GACA. He also was chosen for the Coaches’ Advisory Board of the Atlanta Falcons’ First and Ten Foundation.
Phillips and Pardue became well acquainted on the recruiting trail as Pardue helped develop several outstanding players who went on to wear the Blue and White at Kentucky. The first LaGrange product at UK was Quentin McCord (1996, 1998-2000), who was recruited by Phillips and became one of the best wide receivers in Wildcat history, totaling 112 catches for 1,743 yards and 15 touchdowns.
After returning to Kentucky in 2003, Phillips tapped the LaGrange pipeline often. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard (2004-07) led Kentucky in tackles three straight seasons and earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors as a junior and senior. Woodyard is now in his third season with the NFL’s Denver Broncos and is captain of the special teams.
Another LaGrange linebacker, Braxton Kelley, played at UK from 2005-08 and led the team in tackles as a senior, marking the fourth straight year that a Granger paced the UK defense. LaGrange product DeMoreo Ford (2005-08) is best remembered for his 70-yard touchdown catch in the 2006 Music City Bowl.
Former Grangers currently on the UK roster include starting defensive backs Mychal Bailey and Randall Burden, defensive end Tristian Johnson, linebacker Qua Huzzie, and kickers Joe Mansour and Patrick Simmons.
Pardue sent numerous other players into the collegiate ranks, including players such as All-SEC linebacker Sam Olajubutu at Arkansas, South Carolina quarterback Blake Mitchell and Florida running back Skyler Thornton. Additional players signed with Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State and several other schools.
A native of Hopkinsville, Ky., Pardue played at Christian County High School under KHSAA Hall of Fame coach Fred Clayton. Pardue was an offensive lineman at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., and got his master’s at West Georgia College.
Pardue began his coaching career as the offensive line coach at Fayette County High School in Fayetteville, Ga., in 1985. In 1986, Pardue coached offensive and defensive lines at Albertville High School in Alabama, before moving to Crittenden County High School in Marion, Ky., where he served as head coach from 1987-1990. He moved to LaGrange as an assistant for the 1991 season, coaching outside linebackers, as the Grangers won the state championship and were declared national champion by USA Today. He coached the offensive line in 1991-92 and was defensive coordinator in 1993. Pardue then took over as head coach and running backs coach in 1994.
“The number one reason I came to Kentucky is because of Joker Phillips,” Pardue said. “I believe in the way he’s doing things here and his vision for the program. And, because it’s the University of Kentucky, the state school of my home state.
“This was the toughest decision I’ve ever made, to leave the town of LaGrange, and if it weren’t for Joker Phillips and the University of Kentucky, I wouldn’t have left. But I’m ready for a new challenge and am excited about the future of Kentucky football.”
Pardue is married to the former Pamela Bennett of Goodlettsville, Tenn. The couple has two children, a daughter, Morgan, and a son, Chas.
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT PARDUE
“Coach Pardue is a great guy. Anyone would love to play for him. He is the type of coach that will get your best; he demands your best. He gives you the will to be more than you think can be. He doesn’t yell all the time, but encourages you and teaches you what you did wrong. I think it’s great for UK.” – Braxton Kelley, former Granger and Wildcat
“I’m excited to see that a coach from LaGrange will be at Kentucky. I think it will mean a lot for recruiting, especially in the state of Georgia. A lot of players from LaGrange have come from Kentucky to play football, and it means a lot to us to see a guy from LaGrange coaching at UK. Playing for Coach Pardue in high school, I know he was an excellent coach and an inspirational coach. He loved the game of football and showed so much passion on the field. His energy spread throughout the whole team, and I think that’s why we were so successful.” – Wesley Woodyard, former Granger and Wildcat, now with the Denver Broncos
"Coach Pardue is excellent, inspiring and he always comes to work with a business-first approach where you celebrate after you take care of business attitude. He is more than a coach; he is family." – current Wildcat Mychal Bailey
“Coach Pardue is just a great all-around coach. He really has a passion for coaching and always gets the most out of his players. I think that he will really work hard with those guys (running backs) and do a great job. It's going to be nice to have him up here because of his overall knowledge of the game of football." – current Wildcat Qua Huzzie
"Coach Pardue is a great coach who knows a lot about football. He makes you better in every way on the field. He knows what he wants out of his players and he will push them ‘til he gets their best." – current Wildcat Randall Burden
THE PARDUE FILE
1985 Fayette County (Ga.) High School Assistant Coach
1986 Albertville (Ala.) High School Assistant Coach
1987-90 Crittenden County (Ky.) High School Assistant Coach
1991-93 LaGrange (Ga.) High School Assistant Coach
1994-2010 LaGrange (Ga.) High School Head Coach