Faircloth not having trouble letting football go

Published 12:01 am Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Former Vidalia High School head football coach Dee Faircloth recently attended the annual football jamboree at Viking field. Faircloth spent 42 years as the Vikings’ head football coach. Now he said he does not miss coaching at all and just enjoys rooting on Vidalia from the stands.

VIDALIA — Dee Faircloth hasn’t completely removed himself from the Vidalia High School football scene, but he’s certainly not as emotionally invested in it as he used to be.

As a retired coach, it’s probably better that way, he said.

“I’m not one of these coaches that hangs around the school like some of my buddies have done through the years,” Faircloth said.

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“You won’t see me at practice or anything like that. They couldn’t let go, but I’ve let it go.”

The former Vikings head football coach can often be seen in the stands at Vidalia home games cheering his former team on. Faircloth also said he’ll occasionally catch a Block High School game, since his mother lives close to the school, he said.

“The ironic thing is, my dad actually started football at Block back in the 1930s,” Faircloth said.

After 42 years as the Vikings’ head football coach — which he said had him working every day of the week —Faircloth said he doesn’t miss coaching one bit.

“Retired life is fine,” he said. “I didn’t know how much I’d like it at first, but now I don’t have to be at a certain place at a certain time. I tell people that every day is a Saturday.”

Faircloth said his routine includes taking his grandchildren, Morgan and Drew, to school, doing chores around the house, picking his grandchildren up after school, helping them with homework, watching TV and reading the newspaper.

“After 42 years, I didn’t know there was another world out there,” Faircloth said about retirement life.

In addition to watching local football games, Faircloth said he breaks down film each week in the fall for his nephew, Bo Barton, who is the head coach at Caldwell High School. After watching so much film over the years, Faircloth said he wishes he had gotten a dollar every time he did it.

“It’s no wonder my eyes are going out,” Faircloth said.

Back in Faircloth’s heyday as a coach, watching film from opposing teams involved meeting opposing coaches halfway between the two schools and exchanging what they had.

“Now they tell me they get all their games on the Internet, so they don’t have to go around getting it,” Faircloth said. “I told them, ‘What’s the fun in that?’”

Watching sports on TV is a good way to pass the time as a retiree, Faircloth said. His favorite teams are the New York Yankees, the Boston Celtics, the New England Patriots and now the Denver Broncos.

“I want Peyton Manning to do well,” Faircloth said.

Faircloth’s favorite college teams are LSU and Alabama, which he admitted is a bit odd, since most LSU fans don’t like Alabama.

“I just like (Alabama head coach Nick) Saban,” Faircloth said. “I think he’s a heck of a coach.”

Faircloth said he normally cheers for teams that have head coaches he likes, which is also why he cheers for the Patriots, since Bill Belichick is their coach.

“(Saban) is such a hands-on coach, and he has a relentless drive,” Faircloth said. “He’s also a heck of a defensive coach, and I lean more toward defense.”

Even though his father, a former high school coach, was more offense-oriented, Faircloth said he adopted the opposite approach when it came to coaching.

“I’d go to a game and win 7-6, and I’d say it was a good game,” Faircloth said. “My dad was different. I think we practiced defense on Thursday. His philosophy was, if I have the ball the whole game, you’re not scoring.”

Having attended Vikings’ home games, Faircloth has seen Vidalia struggle since he stepped down following the 2009 season.

“I hate it for the kids,” Faircloth said. “You want your kids to enjoy playing and have success, but one of those things that I’ve learned over the years is that it runs in cycles. I think they’ll turn the corner this year.”

Faircloth said it’s hard to say why the Vikings have struggled so much recently, but he listed strength of schedule and a lack of talent and experience as possible reasons.

“There’s a lot that can go into it,” Faircloth said.

He also said he’s given current Viking head coach Gary Parnham Jr. some advice through the tough times.

“You just have to hang in there, roll up your sleeves and go to work,” Faircloth said. “That’s it.”

Always known for his hatred of homecoming, Faircloth has said in the past that he’s abolishing all homecoming activities as soon as he takes over the world. But Faircloth admitted that he’s a bit behind schedule as far as taking over the world goes.

“The world situation is putting me on the backburner,” Faircloth joked. “I don’t think I’ll get to make that choice.”

Faircloth recalled his 2008 homecoming matchup against Mangham High School — a 46-0 loss — as his worst homecoming experience. But it wasn’t the game that made him so angry as much as it was what happened afterward.

“There wasn’t a single soul in that dressing room,” Faircloth said. “I thought it was a joke. There was a dance afterward, and I guess they were in a hurry to get to it.”

As a former coach, Faircloth said he’s seen coaching friends of his hang onto the profession for too long, and he said it’s hard for coaches to let go of the competitive spirit that comes with coaching.

“It’s you going against that guy on Friday night saying, ‘Can I beat them?’” Faircloth said. “In this country, football is the closest thing there is to war. It’s a unique deal.”

When one of his water girls asked Faircloth if he cried when the dinosaurs died, Faircloth said he knew he was getting up there in coaching years.

“I said yes, because all the excitement was gone,” Faircloth joked. “The dinosaurs used to chase me through the forest, and when they died, there was no longer anyone to chase me.”

Faircloth insisted that when the time came to retire, it wasn’t hard for him to let go.

“I spent 42 years working every day,” Faircloth said. “It just got to a point where I said, ‘That’s it.’

“One of my old coaching buddies called and told me he heard I was going back into coaching. I said, ‘Not in this lifetime.’”