Photo Credit: SU Athletics
Coach Phil Jones on the sidelines waiting for the next play.
The SU football team said goodbye to a legend in December. After 11 years of leading the team, Phil Jones stepped down from his position of head football coach.
Coach Jones, 69, has had over forty years of experience coaching football and has coached at both the high school and college levels. His first collegiate coaching position came at the University of Georgia, and he followed it up with several years at SMU and Gardner-Webb. However, it is here at Shorter that his coaching has made the biggest impact.
Jones became the team’s first ever head football coach when the school created the program in 2005. As soon as the school joined the NAIA Mid-South Conference, Jones made an impact.
New athletic programs usually take time to gain attention and achieve success, but in just two short years the team had a winning record. In four years, it won the division title. That success can be attributed directly to Coach Jones.
After the 2011 season, the athletics department moved from the NAIA to NCAA Division II. Within a tougher level of competition, Jones’ leadership has continued to guide the program.
In his 11 years, he has crafted what opposing coaches have called “the hardest-playing and most competitive team in the conference.” Now, this doesn’t always transfer over to the scoreboard, but Jones isn’t a man who cares solely about the win-loss column. His job goes much deeper than that.
For years he has used this motto for his teams: “It’s all about relationships”. This has meant something extra to the players who are lucky enough to have Jones as their coach. He has had a spiritual and godly influence on everyone around him.
As a coach, he was reasonable and encouraging. As a person, he brought the best out of the people he came into contact: coaches, players, assistants, and students. In fact, many players will admit that the main reason they came to Shorter was because of Jones.
In the wake of his departure, Jones addressed the football players in a team meeting stating how hard it was to step down.
“Every single day, my thoughts and my eyes were you guys,” Jones said.
“I’ve done this for forty years, and I still feel like I could fill forty more,” Jones said, “But out of the forty years…to me, it’s the greatest football program of all of those. This is the biggest in my heart.”
When he finished his talk, the team unanimously gave him a standing ovation.