Centreville’s Hurst closes in on coaching milestone

Published 12:02 am Thursday, October 16, 2008

CENTREVILLE — If numbers were all that defined Centreville football coach Bill Hurst, his resume would be very impressive.

After all, Hurst is Mississippi’s winningest active coach, has won seven state championships and will attempt to win his 300th career game Friday night against Oak Forest.

But what makes Hurst a truly special coach isn’t his accomplishments on the field, but what he means to his players and the students at Centreville off the field.

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“I feel God has put me here,” Hurst said. “I feel like the 300 wins is not as important as making a positive difference in someone’s life. It’s the most important thing I do. It’s more important than winning games.”

Hurst has done plenty of that, too. He has always been known as a tough but fair coach who would run you to death in practice, but would put an arm around you afterwards.

It’s one of the reasons that he has won 76 percent of his games as head coach and is on track to reach the coveted 300-win plateau this season.

It’s also the reason that former players like Brian Stutzman and current players such as senior left tackle Cody Roberts have such affection for the man.

“He’s a tremendous motivator,” said Stutzman, who was a tailback on Centreville’s 1989 state championship team and has also been an assistant coach at Centreville for the past 11 years. “It lets us know that you have to be a hard worker to earn anything in life. Nothing will be given to you. He displays great Christian morals and puts that over on his kids and employees.”

Roberts said Hurst treats every student at Centreville the same, whether they’re athletes or not.

“He’s a great man,” Roberts said of Hurst. “He loves every one of us, even the other kids that don’t play football. I like that about him. If we get in trouble, we suffer the same consequences as everyone else does. There’s no special treatment.”

It is that sentiment that Hurst takes great pride in. He says every student at Centreville is important to him, not just the football players.

“Each child and staff member is important to the school,” Hurst said.

One of the character traits Hurst preaches is loyalty, which is something he has practiced in his time at Centreville.

He’s had offers to coach at much bigger high schools and even colleges, but has always chosen to stay in the sleepy hamlet in Southwest Mississippi.

“I stake my claim on loyalty,” Hurst said. “When people are good to me, I want to do good things in return. I feel that God has given me the opportunity to work at Centreville, with a great staff and great kids.”

And loyalty is the main thing he attributes his coaching success to.

“It’s letting the kids know about loyalty and being a team player,” Hurst said. “Everyone has to work hard together. It’s not about me, it’s about the team. That’s what’s important.”

And Hurst takes that team standpoint when talking about his potential 300th win Friday night. He says he isn’t focusing on that, but on the playoff berth Centreville will sew up with a win over Oak Forest.

However, Roberts said getting Hurst his 300th win is something the players have been focusing on the past few weeks.

“That right there almost feels better than winning the state championship last year,” Roberts said. “That’s a lot of wins and we’ve been working hard to get it for him. He isn’t thinking about it much, he just wants us to make the playoffs, but it makes us want to work that much harder.”

It took 32 years to get to 300 wins, and Hurst, 59, just laughs when asked if he’ll be at Centreville long enough to go for 400 victories.

“Oh no, I don’t foresee getting 400,” Hurst said. “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to coach, but I’ll do it until I feel like I don’t need to do it anymore.”

But until then, Hurst will be out there on the field and in the hallways, demanding maximum effort from his players and students, but always being there to lend a helping hand or guiding voice.