MACON — Noxubee County High School football coach Tyrone Shorter is driven by a goal.
While most coaches are defined by wins and losses, Shorter feels he is best defined by graduation day.
“Our job as coaches is to keep another black man off the streets,” Shorter said. “If a player does not graduate with all of the tools to be successful in life, then we as coaches have failed them. It is not an option. It’s our job. It is what we sign up to do.”
Shorter will begin his sixth season as coach of the Tigers on Aug. 21 when his team hosts Starkville. In his 17 seasons at the school as an assistant or head coach, Noxubee County has become one of the state’s premier programs, winning three Mississippi High School Activities Association state championships, including two of the past three in Class 4A.
While the final outcome on Friday nights is important, it is not Shorter’s defining measure of success.
“I don’t think people really realize what coach Shorter gives back to the program,” Noxubee County booster club member Eddie Henley, who runs a Facebook page devoted to the program, said. “If a player needs to take a visit to a school, coach Shorter clears his schedule, uses his gas, and makes sure it gets done. Words don’t describe what his players mean to him.”
A good trend
In the past four seasons, Noxubee County has had 33 players sign a junior or senior college scholarship offer. That number is second in Mississippi to only Class 6A power South Panola.
The process of getting a player a seat at the table on National Signing Day starts early.
“We sit down in ninth grade and identify the players with special potential,” Noxubee County second-year principal Dr. Pat Scott said. “We place all of the players and really, all of our student-athletes, on a plan to ensure they are successful. We monitor the players academically and make sure they have the support that is needed.
“By starting a plan in the ninth grade, we don’t lose any ground. We are aware of what they are doing from the start, and we are able to monitor their process throughout their athletic careers.”
For Shorter, the ground rules are set in the first meeting.
“It’s not about winning and losing,” Shorter said. “It’s about this program. I tell the kids it’s not about them. We talk about not being selfish. These kids have to keep the tradition going.”
Shorter requires the team to dress the same way for all functions. He emphasizes the little things, saying Gene Murphy, his former coach at Hinds Community College, repeatedly stressed big things will take care of themselves if you take care of the little things.
“Coach is just as good at the classroom as he is on the football field,” Henley said. “For instance, there was a star football player a few years back who had a scholarship offer. Coach would not let him run on the track team that spring. Instead, he told him he needed to concentrate on his studies to make sure he did what he had to do to play on the next level.”
Shorter said football has meant everything to him in life. The sport also paved the way for his education to be paid for. Now on the other side of the spectrum, he feels the need to give back is a commandment, not an option.
“We take pride in sending guys on,” Shorter said. “We have a bunch of kids playing college football now. My coaches helped me. My teachers helped me. It is one of our duties as coaches. All of the time I hear from (college coaches) how great our kids are. They tell us they know how to work hard.
“I have been told by more than one coach that very quickly in camp, a Noxubee kid separates himself from all others by his work ethic,” the coach said. “Football means a lot to this community…(but players) also know school will always come first. We are going to get that part right long before any game is played.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.