Coaches, former players react to retirement

Published 11:57 pm Thursday, December 17, 2009

VIDALIA — When Vidalia High School assistant football coach Gary Parnham Jr. returns to the school in January, he faces the daunting task of adjusting to life at Vidalia without Dee Faircloth, who announced his retirement this week.

“It’s going to be tough not having him be there Jan. 4,” Parnham said.

“I can tell you that Coach Faircloth is Vidalia High School. He’s been there 42 years. I played under him for four years and coached with him for 16 years.

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“Anytime you think about Vidalia High School athletics, Dee Faircloth is the first thing that pops into your mind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out of town and had people ask me how Dee was doing.”

Parnham isn’t the only one who finds it hard to imagine Vidalia football without Faircloth. Richard Chriswell, a former player under Faircloth from 1984 through 1987, also said Faircloth is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Vikings football.

“He meant everything to Vidalia,” Chriswell said. “He was Vidalia. You’re talking 42 years coaching there. There are so many kids that have gone through the program. He’s personally helped a lot people.”

For Chriswell, several things stood out that made Faircloth such an effective coach.

“As far as football was concerned, he was probably one of the first coaches in the state to implement weight lifting,” Chriswell said.

“He taught me a lot about football. He had a playbook that was fairly thick. We ran three, four or even five different defenses.

“He did everything for us. He washed the clothes and everything. He was a really great coach, and it saddens me to hear that he’s retiring.”

The attention Faircloth paid to detail was not lost among his players. Brent Smith, who played for Faircloth from 1982 to 1986, said whoever replaces him would have big shoes to fill in that regard.

“He kept inventory of everything from jock straps to cleats,” Smith said. “He washed our clothes and had them ready for practice.

“He just ran a great program. We were always well prepared for whichever team we were going to play. When you got off that bus, you were ready to give (100) percent.”

The respect that Faircloth’s players have for him is evident by the fact that most of his assistant coaches have played for him, Parnham said.

“I think that says a lot about the person himself,” Parnham said. “I don’t know if you’ll be able to find a player that played under him that will say anything bad about him. As a player, you’d run through a brick wall for him.”

While Faircloth was serious on the field, he also had a great sense of humor. It’s not hard for his players to remember incidents in which that sense of humor came into play.

“He was somewhat the character off the field, in the office,” Chriswell said. “I remember, only his juniors and seniors were allowed in the office. On Thursdays, we’d like to get popsicles out of his refrigerator.

“He would tie a rubber snake to the inside of the door, so it looked like it was coming out at you if you opened it. Then he’d say, ‘Hey, go over and get some more popsicles!’”

Not all the funny incidents took place outside of games or practices.

“One time we were in the gym practicing, and Coach Faircloth hates the gym, so he was already mad,” Smith said. “He had just moved me to center, and lined up behind me as quarterback in this one drill, to show us how to run a play.

“His hands were too low, so when I snapped the ball, it hit him in the face and knocked off his hat and glasses. Then he shouted, ‘No wonder we can’t get a damn play run!’”

Faircloth’s disdain for anything relating to homecoming is well known among his players, and was just as prevalent in the 80s as it is now.

“Oh, he couldn’t stand homecoming,” Chriswell said. “I remember one year, we were playing either Mangham or Rayville, and we were losing at halftime.

“He had a halftime speech for us: ‘You look like you’re already at the homecoming dance. The problem is, they’re wearing the tuxedos and you’re wearing the dresses. You and Sally Sue are already there, dancing the night away!’”

Faircloth has coached at Vidalia High for 42 years.