For that matter, it came a little early for Bill Clark and his family, too.
On Wednesday, the school officially welcomed Clark back to his roots. School officials formally introduced him as the Gamecocks' new head football coach.
Clark replaces former coach Jack Crowe, who was let go Nov. 30 after 13 seasons at JSU. It is Clark's first collegiate head-coaching position.
"I guess I can quote a famous philosopher, Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty: 'We are happy, happy, happy!,'" JSU President Bill Meehan said of Clark's hiring. "We believe we've got a great fit for Jacksonville State University, because he is part of us. He is one of us. His wife (Jennifer) is also. He's a graduate and knows us. He'll hit the ground running."
"I think excitement would not be a big enough term to tell you how glad we are to be back home," said Clark, who graduated from JSU in 1990. "Getting back home was important to us, but more importantly is what's going on here and where we're headed. I think from the athletic department to the school, the way the academics are run at our university, it's first class. I want to be part of that."
Clark's winding football coaching history began following his graduation from Jacksonville State.
The son of former Ohatchee, Ashville, Piedmont and Randolph County football coach Ragan Clark, the younger Clark began his coaching career as an assistant at Piedmont High School. He also had coaching stints at Tuscaloosa County High School, Coffee County (Ga.) High School and Dothan High School, but Clark is best known for leading Prattville High School to state and national prominence.
During his nine years as Prattville's head coach (1999-2007), the Lions won a pair of Class 6A state championships. His last two teams won 30 straight games, and his 2007 squad was ranked No. 2 in the nation in USA Today's national high school poll. He finished his career at Prattville with a 107-11 record.
Clark joined the University of South Alabama's football program in 2008 after his tenure at Prattville. He served as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator the past five seasons.
Clark is hopeful his past coaching experiences will serve him well as JSU's new head coach.
"I think experiences make you who you are, and this is the next step in that process," he said. "To get to go to all these different spots, I did all those things that I think makes you appreciate things. I appreciate high school coaches. I know what they have to go through, and I think that helps in recruiting. I think all those things I've experienced will help here."
Jacksonville State Athletic Director Warren Koegel said the search for the Gamecocks' new coach was an extensive one, with many qualified candidates at different levels. But in the end, Koegel said Clark's name kept popping up.
"When it got down to looking for the right person for Jacksonville State, Bill had all the ingredients we really wanted," Koegel said. "He's a quality person, someone with integrity, obviously a great record at Prattville High School and other places. His Division I experience, he's a really well-respected defensive coach, which we needed as well. He understands offense too. He's not just a defensive guy, even though that's what his expertise is in.
"He's all about graduating our athletes. He's a Jacksonville State graduate. His passion for this university is very strong. As we went through the process and had a number of candidates who were all very good candidates, he just kept coming up as the guy who had all the ingredients for us to be the right fit for Jacksonville State. We're thrilled. We're excited to have him."
JSU defensive back and Collinsville native Robert Gray said he's also excited to have Clark as his coach.
"Everywhere he's been, he's won, and I'm ready for him to bring that kind of mentality in here," Gray said. "I can already tell I'm going to like him. We're going to do everything fast-paced. We get into a lot of games and get a lot of up-tempo, and we only have a week to prepare for it. We'll be doing it the whole year, so I feel like that will be a good thing."
One of Clark's first priorities will be meeting with the team once it returns from Christmas break. He'll also try to persuade upcoming senior quarterback and Cherokee County native Coty Blanchard to continue playing football.
Blanchard, who also plays for the Gamecock baseball team, was drafted by Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles in 2010. He didn't see as much football playing time last season as his previous two seasons at JSU, and is eligible for the baseball draft again next year.
Clark said he's spoken briefly with Blanchard about continuing his football career with the Gamecocks.
"You've got to keep your home players first, and obviously we know what kind of player he is. We know what he brings to the table," Clark said. "I know he's got a baseball commitment, but we want him around. He's going to be vital to our success. Yes, that's big (to keep Blanchard)."
Blanchard said he's gotten a good first impression from Clark.
"I was planning on coming back, but this fuels the fire even more," Blanchard said. "It's hard not to get fired up about someone like that who's so energetic. He seems like a family guy who's not going to send anyone the wrong message. That's the kind of guy we need here at JSU. He's ready to start rolling, and so are we. We'll just have to see where things go, but I plan on coming back. That's where I'm at right now."
Blanchard said it doesn't bother him about Clark's defensive background, noting his Prattville offenses were high-tempo in nature when he was coaching there.
"I'm not really worried about who he's going to bring in because I know he has some ideas about it (the offense)," Blanchard said. "I knew when he was at Prattville they were so good. They won year in and year out. He's a great coach. He's won everywhere he's gone. We're lucky to have him."