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Marks’ winding road to becoming a successful coach

By TIM GUERCIO

THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT

FERRIDAY — Bobby Marks has lived on Lake St. John in the same lake house for 75 years, ever since his father moved the family from Newport, Arkansas, into that house in 1944.

At Ferriday High School, Marks, at 6 foot and 165 pounds, played fullback and linebacker for coach Red Robinson, whom he said he learned a lot from and admired as a coach.

“We went both ways back then,” Marks said. “Fullbacks and linebackers in high school nowadays probably weigh 240 pounds.”

After graduating from Ferriday High School in 1951 Marks got a job at International Paper in Natchez.

Marks said he worked in the chemical portion of the plant, and worked too many graveyard shifts.

“The military was the next stop for Marks, drafted into the Army and off to Fort Hood Texas he went, leaving his wife behind.

The two-year hitch was enough time for him to make the rank of Corporal, and to almost get shipped out to the front lines of the Korean Conflict, he said.

“While we were in training we would go on bivouac and train for combat,” Marks said. “We slept on the ground more than we did in our bunk.”

Marks and the entire platoon were told to pack up their gear and get down to the motor pool, where buses were waiting to take them off to be shipped to Korea.

“We were told to get down there and wait on the buses, so I packed my double bag and went down there,” Marks said. “We waited on those buses for three days and they never came to get us. They heard I was coming and they surrendered. What happened was they had been working on a treaty and I never went to war.”

The Marks said the Army taught him discipline.

“If you didn’t have any,” Marks said, “you weren’t going to make it.”

At the age of 21 Marks was back in Natchez, and back at IP this time staying for the next two years.

Football was on Marks’ mind and he said he had a desire to become a coach, so back to his old coach Robinson he went to see about a job coaching at Ferriday High.

Robinson put Marks in charge of coaching the junior high football team, he said.

The second year, Marks said his team went undefeated, and the next year, too.

When his junior stint was over Marks had won 44 games in a row and had captured five district championships.

“Our districts back then were teams like Vidalia, Margaret Martin, Morgantown, Montebello,” Marks said. “That was in 1967, ’68 and ’69.”

Marks then moved on to Huntington High School, which was in Ferriday back then, and continued his success.

In 1972 The Hounds were a perfect 14-0, with five seniors going on to play college football.

“Gerald Vaught went to Ole Miss, Billy Wheat went to Ole Miss, and Russell Huber went to Tulane,” Marks said.

The next place Marks served as coach was Thomas Jefferson High School in Natchez for four years.

The closing of TJ sent Marks to Cathedral in 1977. He brought with him, some of his players that wanted to play for the new Cathedral Greenie football team.

The 1977 Cathedral team was another undefeated team Marks coached. Going 9-0 in the regular season, then winning the inaugural River City Bowl and then getting invited to an unprecedented second bowl game. The Greenies as they were called then, are still the only regular season undefeated team in the school’s more than 100-year history.

Senior starting quarterback on that team was Clay Arnold, who also backed up the defense playing free safety. Arnold credits Marks’ skills as a leader.

“When he was on the practice field he was in charge,” Arnold said. “He was such a smart, smart football coach. He always put us in the best position to win the football game.”

Marks moved on to Adams County Christian School in 1978 where he coached for 15 seasons, delivering to ACCS an undefeated 12-0 team in 1982, and the title of State Champions, which was the only state football title in school history until head coach David King and his staff won the title in 2018.

Marks at 86 years old goes to visit one of his old players, Tom Milligan, in Ferriday three times a week for physical therapy.

“I want to be able to keep riding my zero turn lawnmower and playing golf every Thursday,” Marks said. “He puts me through a heck of a workout. I always wanted to be a coach and that’s what I am.”

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