By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published February 4, 2021
ATLANTA—After 20 years with the Golden Lions, Paul Standard will leave his position as head football coach of St. Pius X High School.
Standard is taking his coaching talents to Gilmer High School in Ellijay, home of the Bobcats. He will stay at St. Pius until the end of the school year. In his last season with the Atlanta high school, Standard finished the varsity football season with a 9-2 record, making it to the second round of the playoffs and earning a regional championship.
Standard, a cradle Catholic, fell in love with football when he started playing the game around age 6. He attended Sts. Peter and Paul School, now St. Peter Claver Regional School in Decatur. Like his other siblings, he graduated from St. Pius X High School.
In his early years of coaching, Standard dreamt of eventually working for the Golden Lions. That dream came true in 2001 when he was hired as the head football coach.
The 20 years at St. Pius felt like a dream job, said Standard.
“When you’ve got the kind of community that we have that genuinely appreciated what we as teachers and coaches here do, and the support that we have made it a dream come true,” he said.
Standard and his wife, Cindy, have been married for 34 years. Three of their children—Paul III, Elizabeth and Mary Catherine—graduated from St. Pius. Their youngest, Maggie, is a junior at the Atlanta high school. Paul III served as the offensive coordinator for St. Pius football team. He will join his father to coach at Gilmer.
The Standard family have been parishioners at Prince of Peace Church in Flowery Branch for nearly 30 years. When they move to Ellijay, they plan to become members of Good Samaritan Church.
“As a St. Pius alum, no doubt the last 20 years have been a labor of love for this school, the young men he’s coached and with the game of football,” said Todd Mooney, athletics director of St. Pius.
Always room to grow
Before coming to St. Pius, Standard coached for a year at Loganville High School, Loganville (1985), Meadowcreek High School, Norcross (1986-1990) and Dacula High School, Dacula (1991-2000). He completes his time at St. Pius with an overall record of 174-72, eight regional championships, 19 playoff appearances and two state championship appearances.
While Mooney has worked with Standard over the last three years, he met him in 2000. He considers Standard to be a great colleague and friend.
“Coach Standard’s impact on the football program has been tremendous,” said Mooney. “[He] leaves us as the career leader in wins at St. Pius X, but more importantly, he has built one of the most respected programs in the state and [has] been a mentor to countless young men.”
“One of the many lessons I’ve learned from Coach Standard is that there is always room to grow and learn no matter how old, young, experienced or inexperienced,” said Camden Wooden, offensive guard and defensive tackle for the varsity football team. “He coaches us to not only be the best players or the best students in the classroom, but also how to be a great stand up man.”
Wooden said that Coach Standard, while keeping focused on the season and goals, found time to talk with the team about other issues and how football players can affect what happens in the school building in positive ways.
Over the summer, Standard created space for the players to talk about race issues they experienced in their school community and on the team. These conversations were sparked by protests in Atlanta and other states following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
“For me as a young adult to see this grown man ask me about real world issues instead of telling me about issues he faced spoke volumes,” said Wooden. “…Because he wasn’t focused on preaching to us about what life was like when he was younger, but he’d rather learn something from his players to help him evolve in this forever changing world.”
“Coach Standard has helped to solidify St. Pius as a veritable force in Georgia high school football,” said John Favier, president of the Atlanta school. “His efforts have transformed Friday night lights into a communal moment to celebrate our students and recognize the gifts God has given them.”
As Standard prepares for his new role at Gilmer High School, he hopes the St. Pius football program will continue to reach new heights.
He called St. Pius a great, loving Catholic environment.
“I’m excited about where I’m going,” he said. “But my heart will always be here at St. Pius.”