Vicksburg has a rich history of football coaches

Published 9:32 am Thursday, June 29, 2017

In college football circles, Miami University in Ohio has earned the nickname “The Cradle of Coaches” for its knack of churning out some of the game’s top minds. More than two dozen head coaches, including Super Bowl winners John Harbaugh and Sean Payton, have worked or played at the school.

If that’s the cradle, Vicksburg, Mississippi might be able to stake a claim as the car seat. A lot of coaches have spent time here on their way to big-time success.

Friday, the city will celebrate Houston Markham, Jr. day with a parade and ceremony at Vicksburg Junior High. The parade begins at 3:45 p.m. and the other festivities at 4:30. Markham is one of nearly a dozen coaches who passed through Vicksburg on their way to hall of fame careers.

The tradition probably started with Steve Campbell. He was only at Carr Central from 1953-55, but led the Greenies to the Big 8 championship in his final season. From there, he went to the University of Texas and served as Darrell Royal’s defensive coordinator for the next 20 years.

Temple High School picked up the baton in the 1960s. Southwestern Athletic Conference legends W.C. Gorden (Jackson State), Markham (Alabama State) and Cardell Jones (Alcorn State) all coached there, and Markham and Jones went on to coach at Vicksburg High as well.

Gorden, Markham and Jones combined for 317 career wins, 12 SWAC championships, and a .611 winning percentage.

The 1970s and 80s largely belonged to Warren Central and it, too, was a breeding ground for successful coaches. Lum Wright Sr. turned the program into a juggernaut and was inducted into the National Federation of High Schools Hall of Fame in 2004. His successor, Robert Morgan, is a member of the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame and is Warren County’s all-time leader in career victories with 168. No. 2 on the list is Wright, at 125 wins, and St. Aloysius’ Joe Balzli (115) is the only other coach to even crack triple digits.

The legacy of Warren Central’s success is still seen today. Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson played for Wright and Morgan, and Robert’s son Josh is quickly becoming recognized as one of Mississippi’s best young high school coaches.

Besides the guys I’ve mentioned, a number of other former players and assistants have gone on to have successful, if more low-key, careers on the high school and college levels.

It’s a long lineage, to be sure, and maybe just a quirk of history. Either way, it’s something we can brag about. “The car seat of coaches” isn’t as catchy as the cradle, but it kind of fits and has a nice ring, doesn’t it?

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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