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Family, faith, football: Jefferson County coach builds new life after Hurricane Harvey

Anthony Rankin is so deeply in love with sports that they might have even saved his life.

Nearly one year ago to the day, Rankin traveled back to his hometown in Fayette from where he lived in Baytown, Texas. While he and some of his friends watched the highly anticipated 2017 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor, Rankin’s home and his belongings were simultaneously being flooded by one of the most damaging hurricanes on record.

Just days after his visit home, Rankin returned to Texas to find Hurricane Harvey had left behind little to nothing but water — water everywhere.

“I went into my home and it looked like someone had took the house and literally turned it upside down,” Rankin said. “I pretty much lost everything.

“I lived in a two-story house and water was up to my waste on the first floor. It was all destroyed.”

The next step for Rankin, he said, didn’t take much time at all.

“I didn’t really have anywhere else to go than coming back home,” he said. “The house had about $70,000 worth of damage. I couldn’t afford that, and as soon as I saw what it looked like I knew I had to come back.”

Rankin moved back home with what little he had on Aug. 30, 2017, but despite the hardships he has had one of the best years of his life.

In his first year as a coach, Rankin now leads the defensive backs at Jefferson County High School.

“I always wanted to coach and teach, and I felt like if I was going to do anything like that it wouldn’t have been right for me to go anywhere but back home,” the former JCHS strong safety said. “I’m trying to do my due diligence in the city that I’m from.”

Nowadays, Rankin said his true calling is everything he hoped it to be after beginning work with the team this past spring.

“I haven’t missed a day,” he said. “Sports are everything to me. It’s about family, faith and football — then repeat. Family, faith, football. That’s pretty much my whole life.”

After last week’s season opener was canceled because of heavy storms in the area, the Tigers are hoping to play their first full game of the year at 7 p.m. tonight when they host Natchez High.

For Rankin, it’s just another opportunity to teach his players the lessons of life.

“My favorite part about sports is watching how people handle adversity,” he said. “It’s not what you go through, but it’s how you respond.”

And if he ever forgets how to handle adversity, all Rankin has to do is look back to his life one year ago.

“The hurricane really made me realize that our plans are not God’s plans,” he said. “I was never happy with any of the jobs that I was doing, no matter how much money I was making. Now that I’m doing this, I don’t feel like I’m working.

“I love my job. I really do. Football is really everything to me.”

One day, Rankin said he hopes to be a head coach. Until then, he said he’s doing his best to soak in how thankful he is for the life he has.

“To see it on TV and to see it going back, it was completely different,” Rankin said. “To ride around and see how high the water was, it was amazing. There were 18-wheelers underwater. That storm destroyed Houston.

“I was always one of those people who didn’t want to live in Mississippi. I thought there was more to life in the bigger city, but God brought me back home and I am so happy here.”

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