A familiar face, former defensive coordinator Ceasar Nettles, will direct the Riverdale Baptist football team next season as it tries to defend its Capital Area Football Conference championship. Nettles will take over as head coach for Bob Shields, who departed after an undefeated 2013 season to spend time with his family.

Nettles served as Shields’s defensive coordinator since 2007, but has long been a staple of the area’s high school football scene as the director of Sound Mind, Sound Body football camps, which host 650 campers annually and bring top college coaches, NFL players, and life coaches together to teach players the game and the off-field skills required to turn football skill into academic and professional opportunities.

Nettles played as an offensive lineman at Hampton University, and also coached for the Bowie Boys and Girls club prior to coming to Riverdale. He says that while he had the opportunity to jump to the high school level several times, the only opportunity that caught his interest and finally induced him to make the jump was Riverdale’s.

“Most schools, they were just wanting me to come because we [at Bowie Boys and Girls Club] were pretty successful,” Nettles said, “but Bob was more talking about spiritual growth and maturation of men and how we’d doing it using the ministry and that type of thing. So at that time, that just appealed to me that if I were to coach high school, that was the way I’d want to get involved.”

While Nettles says he saw the team go through its “ups and downs” in his seven seasons as the Crusaders’ defensive coordinator, it was the relationships he built at the school that convinced him to apply for the head coaching vacancy.

“I told our athletic director I don’t plan on using this job to merit myself another job — I’m a lifer,” Nettles said. “Our kids are exceptional athletes, yeah, but more than that they’re great young men. I’ve developed so many relationships with our young men that I couldn’t ever see myself not being a part of their lives. Even guys that are now playing college football or have already finished their college days or that stuff, I still talk to those guys every couple weeks.”

Nettles’s defense yielded 10.1 points per game in the Crusaders’ 11-0 season, including six points combined in two CAFC playoff games.