T. McFerrin really had no intention of coaching again prior to being talked out of retirement by Jefferson superintendent John Jackson in 2009.
But he’s certainly glad he ended up doing so.
McFerrin, who coached Jefferson’s football team from 2009-2012 and won a state title, will be inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame in Dalton Saturday. He reserves special praise for the place where his 38-year career concluded.
“Jefferson is an outstanding school,” McFerrin said. “It’s a great school. (Principal) Dr. (Kevin) Smith has done a great job at the high school. The faculty is terrific. It’s a good academic school and, of course, a good athletic school.”
The Dragons reached unprecedented heights under McFerrin’s leadership. The program averaged nearly 10 wins per season, won two region titles, earned three playoff berths and, of course, brought home the school’s first state football title in 2012.
McFerrin wasn’t sure how long he’d stay at Jefferson when he took the job but was happy he ended up spending four years with the Dragons.
“I’m very grateful for the chance (to coach at Jefferson) and then I’m certainly gratified by what we did and what we were able to accomplish,” he said.
McFerrin, who already had over 300 wins to his credit before taking the Jefferson job, was lured out of retirement because of the working relationship and friendship he had with John Jackson at Elbert County (where McFerrin also won a state title). He called Jackson “a great administrator.”
“Dr. Jackson was the only person I would have come out of retirement for,” McFerrin said.
McFerrin also inherited a great situation on the field, taking over a Jefferson program that went 11-1 the previous year under Bill Navas and won a region title — one of very few times the veteran coach had taken over a program in such shape.
McFerrin said that added some pressure.
“Because I sure didn’t want to do any worse than had been done there,” he said. “I think that’s good. I think you work a lot harder.”
McFerrin certainly delivered, guiding the Dragons to an 11-1 record in 2009 and winning the 8-AA title behind a high scoring offense that mixed McFerrin’s I-formation offense with the already-existing shotgun spread attack at Jefferson.
“We averaged a lot of points … it was way on up there,” McFerrin said. “It was the most points that I ever had a team to score.”
While his first year at Jefferson was prolific, McFerrin’s crowning achievement with the Dragons, however, came in his fourth and final season.
After injuries played a factor in the 2010 and 2011 seasons — with the team going 6-4 and 8-3 respectively — Jefferson entered 2012 with a lot of inexperience and was stunned by Commerce, 22-7, in the season opener.
“We thought we had some talented guys, but when you put sophomores in there for the first time under the lights in a varsity game, you don’t know what’s going to happen, and it got off to a rocky start,” McFerrin said.
However, Dragon fans know the rest of the story.
Led by players like linebackers Kody McDonald and Wesley Simonton and quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, Jefferson reeled off a school-record 14 consecutive wins after that Commerce loss, culminating with a 31-14 whipping of Calhoun on the Georgia Dome turf that December for the Class AA championship.
“Kody McDonald told me this after the state championship game … He said, ‘coach we had a meeting after that (Commerce) game and we decided that we weren’t going to lose again,’” McFerrin said. “I said, ‘Kody, I wish you would have told me that then I wouldn’t have worried for the next 14 weeks’ … It was sort of funny.”
McFerrin particularly remembers the team’s 31-0 domination of undefeated Washington-Wilkes five games into the season in what was ultimately the region title game that year.
“I think after that game, we as a coaching staff realized that maybe we’ve got something special here,” he said.
McFerrin called the season “a miracle type year.”
“Those kind of years don’t usually happen,” he said. “After that first game, everything went our way it seemed like.”
McFerrin resigned a few weeks after the Dragons’ thumping of Calhoun in the state championship, ending his career with 340 victories.
He will always look back on that 2012 team as a group of overachievers.
“In the Dome, we showed as we had all year long that we were overachievers,” McFerrin said. “We weren’t the biggest, fastest or strongest, but we were the most determined. It’s a pleasure to coach those kind of guys.”
McFerrin has since kept busy in retirement, noting that his yard “is beginning to look better than it’s looked in the last four or five years.”
McFerrin has spent time reuniting with coaches and players from yesteryear. He’s part of a retired coaches group that meets monthly in Lawrenceville. McFerrin also recently organized a reunion of his old Peachtree High School teams from 1976-1982. McFerrin keeps busy with speaking engagements as well. He even recently spoke to the men’s club at Jefferson First Baptist Church.
“I’m not bored, that’s for sure,” McFerrin said. “I’m staying busy and enjoying the time.”
And he’ll always remember his time in Jefferson fondly.
“Overall, it was great experience, and I’m glad Dr. Jackson twisted my arm a little bit and got me to come out of retirement,” he said.
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