PALMETTO -- When Nate Varnadore and his wife visited Crystal River, everything felt very familiar.
"It was similar to Palmetto," he said. "Blue-collar, good kids, a farming environment. ... It was everything Palmetto was and is."
So when he was offered a chance to take over Crystal River High's football program, Varnadore, a Palmetto assistant, jumped at it.
"It reminded me of home when we went up there to visit," he said. "After meeting the administration and getting to know them, it seemed like a good fit. And when they offered it to me, I didn't pause."
Palmetto's players learned of Varnadore's job earlier this week at the school's football banquet, and he will report to Crystal River later this month.
Varnadore is a 2003 graduate of Palmetto, where he played football and was on the weightlifting team. He spent the past three years working as head coach Dave Marino's defensive line coach and defensive coordinator and was Marino's assistant head coach.
"Dave even told me, 'You should have aspirations to start your own program,'" Varnadore said. "As an assistant, it causes you to be focused and take your job more seriously."
Marino said Varnadore heeded his advice.
"He was always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, and that's something you look at and say, 'You could be a leader in any type of profession,'" Marino said. "Nathan was always asking questions and always ready to absorb more of what was required."
After serving as an assistant and JV coach on Bradenton Christian's first football team in the fall of 2006, Varnadore came to Palmetto the following season and coached defensive ends, as well as the JV team, under head coach Raymond Woodie.
Varnadore was a history teacher at Palmetto and will teach the same subject at Crystal River. Joining Varnadore in Crystal River will be his brother, Seth, who coached Palmetto's quarterbacks.
Marino said Pat Cucci, Palmetto's linebackers and special teams coach, will become the new defensive coordinator.
Crystal River, a Class 5A school in Citrus County, went 6-4 last season and didn't qualify for the playoffs.
"It's going to be a change, but a good change," said Varnadore, who lived across the street from Palmetto High. "Sometimes, staying in one spot could be good and bad for you. ... And it's not like I'm never going be around or never going to be in contact with anyone at Palmetto ever again. My whole family still lives there."