Even at 72 years old, T. McFerrin is staying plenty busy during his retirement. From working around the house to motivational speaking, setting up reunions and catching up on family time, the former Jefferson football coach doesn’t have too many boring days.
And his schedule for late May just got even busier.
After 38 years of serving as a head football coach at eight different schools in the state of Georgia, McFerrin will be inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame May 31 at a ceremony in Dalton.
The induction ceremony will honor one of the state’s all-time best high school football coaches, a man revered by his colleagues for his large list of accomplishments, his influence on the game and his overall approach toward people.
“The whole thing is humbling,”
McFerrin said. “This is the biggest honor that I’ve ever gotten and I’m very humbled about that, very appreciative. I’m very proud of it.”
McFerrin won more than 78 percent of his games as a head coach. He finished with a career record of 340 wins, 102 losses and 4 ties. His 340 wins rank him fourth all-time among Georgia coaches.
McFerrin, who posted winning seasons in 36 of his 38 years, expected to win a lot, and he built successful programs throughout the state. He led seven different schools to the state quarterfinals, five to state semifinals and four to the state championship game, all of which are state records.
He won a combined 13 region titles among seven schools, finished with 10 undefeated regular seasons, and won 10 or more games on 18 separate occasions.
“His record speaks for itself,” said current Jefferson coach Ben Hall, who served on McFerrin’s staff for four years before taking over as the Dragons’ head coach in 2013.
“His influence on the game goes beyond the wins and losses. He was an innovator early on when he started back in the 70s and 80s. He’s had success everywhere he has ever been and I can’t help but think that is because he knows how to treat people.”
McFerrin reached the pinnacle of the high school football landscape twice in his career, winning a pair of state championships.
The first came in 1995 when he guided Elbert County to its first-ever title. Seventeen years later, McFerrin led Jefferson to its first state championship in 2012, his final season on a high school football sideline.
The Dragons finished the season with a 14-1 record, the best season at a school that has been playing football since 1947.
It’s a coaching legacy that very few in the state will ever match.
“We obviously, with him coming here, were receiving a proven commodity,” Jefferson athletic director Tim Corbett said when asked about hiring McFerrin prior to the 2009 season. “One thing I pointed out with him was he generally went to where teams weren’t good and made them better.
“One thing that is tough to do here, it is hard to come into a place that is established. He took on a situation where we weren’t bad. We were coming off multiple playoff victories; we nearly beat Buford in the playoffs when they were with us in Class AA. The stable wasn’t empty. But that sometimes is harder to come into a situation like that, when things are established.”
McFerrin started his coaching career at Lithonia High in the 1960’s before a stop at Forest Park High in 1971.
From there, he spent the next seven years as the coach at Peachtree High in Dekalb County.
After the school closed its doors, McFerrin went to Southeast Whitfield, then to Tucker before landing in Elbert County in 1990.
There, he won the ’95 state title before he earned the job at South Gwinnett in 1998. McFerrin spent the next seven seasons with the Comets before retiring for the first time following the 2004 season.
Five years later, though, the field was calling his name. He couldn’t stay away from the sidelines. McFerrin took the job at Jefferson High for one final coaching adventure.
And what an adventure it was.
He put a bow on his coaching career by going 39-9 with the Dragons, capped off by the state championship inside the Georgia Dome.
“This is a result of a lot of help,” McFerrin said. “I’ve had a lot of great assistant coaches. And I’ve had great administrators and then you have to have football players who want to buy into what you’re trying to do.
“I’ve not had the great blue-chip Division I players, but I’ve had a lot of blue-collar guys that were great overachievers. They were fun guys to coach. I’m thankful for those guys.”
Among the assistant coaches who worked for the hall of famer, 18 to 19 have gone on to become head coaches at various schools, according to McFerrin. Of those, currently five of them head programs in football powerhouse Gwinnett County, including Mill Creek’s Shannon Jarvis and Grayson’s Mickey Conn.
That list of assistant coaches also includes Hall, who said working for McFerrin at Jefferson was an experience he “wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.”
“He was a great man to work for and I learned a lot,” Hall said. “I learned a lot about the game of football and how to treat people. I feel like I am a better coach and a better person for having had that experience.”
While so many former assistants have gone on to become head coaches, others have taken on administrative roles within high school athletics, including McFerrin’s son, Rob, who is now the athletic director at Winder-Barrow High after serving time as an assistant coach under his father at South Gwinnett and under Jarvis at Mill Creek.
“I’m proud of that,” McFerrin said of his former assistants’ success. “The hard thing to do when you hire somebody as an assistant, is you don’t really know how good they’re going to be as a head coach. It’s hard to predict those things, but I’ve had some really, really good assistant coaches.”
When looking back on his career, McFerrin admitted that he made a list of his top coaching memories following his first retirement from South Gwinnett in 2004. Among those near the top of the list at that time was the state title at Elbert County and winning many marquee games that rallied the local community.
“My next door neighbor and I, he coached for me for 12 years, we started listing some of our big games,” McFerrin said. “I think I got 12 of them. It was great fun. You have a lot of great memories.”
After four years at Jefferson, McFerrin now has even more memories to add to his list. And on May 31, one of the best greatest coaches in state history will have the best memory of them all, when he goes into the Hall of Fame.