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|Playing under Faircloth|
By Jake Martin
Growing up under a sportswriter had its benefits and one of those benefits was being able to be on the sidelines of Ferriday High and Vidalia High football games every Friday night.
I was a young boy taking stats on the sidelines when I first saw Vidalia Vikings head coach Dee Faircloth. He had his blue coaching shorts on, Viking T-shirt and his classic Vidalia hat on — well not for long. As fast as I could blink, Faircloth took his hat off, slammed it on the ground and got in the referee's face after making a controversial call. I had an obsession with football since day one, and I would watch this local legend on the sidelines like a hawk.
Coach Faircloth wasn't very big, but when I saw that cap fly and his bald head shine, I was intimidated. I was intimidated up until my dad and I talked to him after the game, and that's when I found out Coach Faircloth is one of the funniest people I'd ever get to know.
Fast forward a good six or seven years, and I find myself in the locker room getting ready to lift weights for the first time. Coach Faircloth talked to us about playing high school football and let us know that the weight room would make us or break us. I listened to every word Coach Faircloth said like a sick patient would listen to their doctor. I knew this man was a legend, and I knew that when it came to football, he had been there and done that.
When it came to football, I wasn't talented, big, strong or fast. The only thing I had going for me was I knew the game, and I knew it well. Coach Faircloth knew this, and he'll tell you that the first day I walked in his office he thought, "Oh no, I'm going to get Kathy and Joey's son killed." I worked hard at practice, and I worked hard in the weight room. Coach Faircloth always commended me on that, but really it was easy when Coach would open that weight room up for us every day from daybreak to nightfall.
Coach always gave us confidence on the field and in the weight room. I can remember countless times staring at that squat machine thinking, "I just don't have it today' and Coach would always say 'I got my money on you, kiddo."
I saw a little playing time my junior year at right guard and on special teams. My senior year, Coach decided that we were moving to the spread offense, and he wanted me to play center. I told him, "Coach, I've never played center in my life, and you want me to play the year we move to spread?" He told me not to worry about it, and he told me to come in every day and we'll practice snaps before we lift.
We did that, and my first snap went over his head. We're both thinking, "Well, this isn't looking too good." Coach, a former quarterback, worked with me and restored my confidence after telling one of his many jokes. Coach was always good about taking the pressure off of you because he would always say something to make you laugh and clear your mind. Over time, I got my snaps down and was ready for the season.
As the season progressed, we were the frontrunners in our district, and if we took care of business against Buckeye at home, we would take first in district and would go to the playoffs. My entire high school career, we never made the playoffs, so this game meant everything to me.
We had talent, and we knew we could beat Buckeye. We were up by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and that's when everything fell apart. We botched an onside kick, fumbled the ball and had an interception which led to us losing that game and losing our playoff aspirations.
I wanted to win that game for myself, but I wanted to win that game for Coach, too. I thought each year we underachieved, and I was confident that my senior year was going to be the year we get the high school coaching legend back in the playoffs. It was hard to see Coach's glory days with those undefeated teams and great players, and us not even being able to make the playoffs.
Even though we never made the playoffs, I absolutely enjoyed every minute of playing under Coach.
Okay, maybe not the 30-30s followed by a Viking 100. Because of him, I can't go a week without working out or I feel miserable. I miss playing football, and more importantly, I miss playing football for Coach Faircloth. I'm just glad I had the privilege to get to play for a living legend when it comes to high school football in Louisiana, and you couldn't find a better representative for the sport.
I can't write a column about Coach Faircloth and not say anything about his stories. To this day, I tell Coach he needs to write a book for all those stories.
He has 40 years worth of good material and if you ever need a good laugh, just ask him about the time they played Christian Life when Michael Clayton was there.
Or even better yet, ask him about his Yankees and his "favorite" player, A-Rod.
Sorry about that, Coach, I couldn't resist.
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