Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Decatur High football coach Jere Adcock left the family grocery business to follow his heart into coaching high school football. He has been at the helm of the Red Raiders’ program since 1996.
Passion and pride
Adcock says he couldn’t stop thinking of coaching
By Brooke Milam
Decatur High’s Jere Adcock has a special feeling this time of year, with the start of high school football practice less than a week away and games less than four weeks away.
“There’s something about the fall,” said Adcock, the Red Raiders’ head coach since 1996. “It’s a feeling I crave. I crave coming to the fieldhouse.
“I have to pinch myself sometimes and say, ‘I can’t believe I’m here. I can’t believe I’m getting to do this.’ If you don’t have a passion for what you are doing, you’re selling yourself short.”
To say Adcock appreciates and respects the profession of coaching is an understatement.
But he didn’t take the traditional path from player to education major to coach that many of his counterparts followed.
In fact, he almost wasn’t a coach at all.
Sports were some of Adcock’s fondest memories of growing up, and he stayed involved by coaching youth football and baseball even after his playing days were finished.
He played football, basketball and baseball at Handley High in Roanoke. For the football team, he played quarterback and defensive back.
But when he graduated in 1973, he enrolled at Auburn, intent on earning a degree in marketing and joining the family grocery business.
That’s exactly what he did for more than a year. But sports still tugged at his mind.
Adcock said youth league practices and football plays consumed his thoughts and were a constant source of pride and happiness.
“All my life, I had been drawn to sports,” Adcock said. “After college, I went to work for the family business and I found myself getting up to go to work each morning looking forward to youth league practice later in the day.”
The call to coaching rang so loudly that Adcock, then 24, finally answered it on a stormy night in South Alabama. “I was sitting with a friend and former teammate (Cary Manning) talking about football and wanting to be a coach, and I realized, ‘Hey, I can do this,’ ” Adcock said.
“I said, ‘That’s it. I’m going back to school.’ And I basically started over as a sophomore.”
The timing was right. His family was selling its business, which opened the door even wider for Adcock to follow his dream.
He re-enrolled at Auburn. And after getting an additional undergraduate degree in physical education and biology, he began his second career as a football coach and science teacher at age 26.
After assistant coaching stops back home at Handley High, McIntosh (Ga.) High and Smiths Station, Adcock and his family landed in Decatur, where he assisted Steve Rivers for two seasons before becoming the Red Raiders’ head coach. Adcock is 83-43 as Decatur’s leader, an average of 7.6 wins a year, and his teams have made the playoffs in nine out of 11 seasons.
Now a veteran coach of 27 years, Adcock and his wife Lynda, who is also a teacher, have made their home in Decatur and influenced the lives of hundreds of players through the outlet of coaching and teaching.
The lifestyle of a coach impacts the entire family, and the Adcocks are Red Raiders through and through.
Son Riley, who will be a senior quarterback at Decatur this fall, and daughters Jordan, who is a rising junior, and Marah, who will be an eighth-grader at Oak Park Middle School, complete the support system that is essential in any coaching family.
“To me, he just seems like a coach — everything about him, even when he’s not actually coaching; his whole personality,” Riley said.
It was while helping run the family business that Adcock said his dad, Durward, taught him the invaluable lesson to “get there early, stay late and work hard the entire time you’re there.”
Adcock has since transferred that philosophy to coaching, dedicating hours to what can sometimes be a thankless job.
“There are a lot of high points and a lot of low points, and I enjoy the differences,” Adcock said. “For me personally, it’s been a great ride.”
And Adcock said the long hours both in season and off season are nothing compared to the rewards that coaching has offered him.
“As long as you’re willing to invest yourself in kids, and they are willing to invest their time with you, there will always be something special in this game,” Adcock said.
“To me, the greatest thing about coaching is the relationships and the chance you have to impact a child’s life.”
Adcock knows the influence a quality coach can have. His own list of influences includes his junior high basketball/football coach and science teacher Tommy Cato, who he said was “the kind of guy all of us young guys wanted to grow up to be.”
There were also his high school football coaches at Handley High, Wayne Freeman, an All-American at Alabama in the early 1960s, and Rick Rhodes, who retired as Division II Delta State’s head coach in January. Adcock said he was impacted as a young coach by Bill Ragle, who played at Troy and Alabama before hiring Adcock to his coaching staff at Handley High and later Smiths Station.
Then there was Dan Washburn, retired executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, who impressed Adcock for years as a coach at Lanett High. Most recently there was Rivers, who Adcock coached under as a Decatur assistant and described as “outstanding at reaching and dealing with young people.”
On the professional level, Adcock, a member of the First Bible Church, looks up to Tony Dungy, reigning Super Bowl champion coach of the Indianapolis Colts, who is known as a devout Christian.
Adcock said all have influenced his coaching journey, as part of a long list of former and current coaches to whom he’s indebted and tries to imitate.
Like most coaches, Adcock has his ways of keeping his professional routine fresh — new offensive developments, new defenses, new players coming in each season.
“It’s good just to revitalize yourself,” Adcock said.
But overall, he said, he could never imagine the daily routine of coaching getting old.
And when Adcock sits outside with a cup of coffee at Ogle Stadium on a fall morning and watches the sunrise, as he said he often does, he knows he is right where he is meant to be.
“I’ve never, ever gotten out of bed as a coach and a teacher and dreaded going to work,” he said. “Every day, I get up with a passion about what I do. And I hope I have this fire a long time.”
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