Faircloth still passionate about Vidalia football

Published 12:45 am Thursday, July 17, 2008

ViIDALIA — Four months is all that kept Dee Faircloth from being a Yellow Jacket instead of a Viking.

Following a stint as a graduate assistant at Northeastern Louisiana University (currently the University of Louisiana-Monroe), Faircloth wound up at his mother’s house ready to fill an assistant coach position at Kinder High in Louisiana, who was the defending state champion at the time.

“I was at my mother’s house and Walter Stampley, who was the (Vidalia High) principal then, called and offered me an assistant’s job,” Faircloth said.

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“And so I came over and talked to him and what sold me on coming to Vidalia was that if I’d gone to Kinder, my first paycheck would have started Oct. 1.

“Vidalia started me July 26.”

When Dee Faircloth was hired at Vidalia High as an assistant coach under Don Alonzo in 1968, he just viewed the gig as a steppingstone to bigger and better positions.

“When I came here, I said ‘well, I’ll just be here one year and move up the ladder,’” Faircloth said.

The ladder must have fallen over; because 41 seasons later, Faircloth is still at the only high school he’s ever known as a head coach.

Like father like son

It’s no surprise Faircloth turned into a coach; after all, coaching has been in his blood since day one. His father, Dalton Faircloth, was the first football coach at Block High School. Among various high school coaching stops throughout his career, the elder Faircloth even coached at Texas A&M a few years prior to Bear Bryant’s famous “Junction Boys.”

Dee was somewhat of a nomad growing up. He attended 10 schools in 12 years due to his dad changing coaching jobs— which makes his tenure at Vidalia High even more interesting.

By Faircloth’s own admission, he didn’t want to put his children through what he went through.

“The toughest day for a kid is the first day at a new school,” Faircloth said.

After graduating from Mangham High, where Dee played quarterback and middle linebacker at 145 pounds, he attended Northeastern State University and played quarterback.

“You know where I’d be today,” Faircloth said referring to his size compared to today’s athletes, “water boy, I wouldn’t even be on the practice squad.”

The evolution of football

Faircloth has seen a lot from the sidelines during his 40-plus year love affair with football.

There are most certainly moments Faircloth would like to forget, but he hasn’t. His football memory is uncanny for a 64-year-old coach. He can rattle off names of former players with the ease of a person listing their parents.

In ’69, Johnny Lee Hoffpauir — the current Vidalia High baseball coach — was his first quarterback.

Hoffpauir’s two sons, Josh and Jarrett, both played quarterback under Faircloth, and Josh was even Faircloth’s first All-State quarterback.

During his time at Vidalia, Faircloth has seen the game evolve from a run-oriented bruiser’s game, into a quarterback’s game — one of spread offenses and deep threats on every play.

“Back in ’67, you never saw any (spread offenses),” Faircloth said. “It was more or less smash mouth football. You didn’t see a lot of passing. You saw a lot of tight formations.

“Your defenses, (the opponent) would probably stay in one formation. Nowadays, they’ll be in 42 different defenses and spread you out all over the field.”

Over the years, players as well as the game itself, have changed.

“My first year, back in 1968, we had one guy who could bench press 200 pounds,” Faircloth said. “We thought he was Superman. And now, we’ve got about 80 kids that can bench press about 200 pounds.”

Faircloth has found a knack for winning with smaller players than the opposition.

“We’ve always been small,” Faircloth said. “Everybody else has 6-foot-2 middle linebackers, and ours are 5-foot-6.”

Where the Vikings lack in size, Faircloth said they makeup in work ethic.

“Our biggest detriment is our size,” Faircloth said. “To combat that you’ve got to be quick, you’ve got to be aggressive and you’ve got to be strong.

Is the end of an era nearing?

While Faircloth wouldn’t peg a timeline for when he plans to retire, he did insinuate it’s not too distant in the future either.

“It’s a lot tougher now than it used to be, especially when you’re 64 years old,” Faircloth said. “It’s basically a young man’s game. It won’t be too long (until retirement). I told my wife it’s getting tougher and tougher.”

Faircloth said it’s the seemingly minor things that make coaching tough for him nowadays.

“Last night at midnight I turned off the water on my field,” Faircloth said. “Little things like that people don’t realize go into coaching. People think it’s like summer league baseball, where the baseball coach has his bat bag in his trunk — it’s not like that.

“When I started coaching, I didn’t realize I was going to have to be a farmer, electrician, plumber, custodian, counselor and doctor. There are a lot of hats that go into coaching.”

While the game and players have changed over the years, Faircloth’s desire to win has not.

“When you step out between those lines on Friday night, it’s the same for me as when I started,” Faircloth said. “I can’t stand to lose. I’m not a good loser.

“If I’m playing my grandmother in checkers I’m going to beat the snot out of her,” Faircloth said jokingly.