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Four Questions with Georgia Sports Hall of Fame coach T. McFerrin

GHSF Daily is expanding its Four Questions feature this season beyond head coaches to other voices in high school football. Today's interviewee is T. McFerrin, who was recently selected for induction into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon. McFerrin won 341 games in 38 seasons as a head coach and won state championships at Elbert County (1995) and Jefferson (2012). He is the only coach in state history to lead five different schools to the semifinals.

T. McFerrin, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame coach 

1. You were selected for the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in September. What was your reaction to the news? "When I was contacted by the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and told that I had been voted into their organization I was both very humbled and excited by this news. I had heard from a good friend, Phil Schaefer, who was inducted into the HOF in 2016, to what a big honor this is. It is a two-day event with a Friday golf tournament and then Jacket Presentation at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame theater. Blue jackets with the HOF logo will be presented in a ceremony to the inductees followed by a buffet in the GSHF Rotunda. On Saturday there is a luncheon back at the GSHF Museum and then a Fan Fest, which is open to the public where the inductees will be available for autographs. The Induction Ceremony will be held at the Macon City Auditorium from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and will include a Cocktail Reception and Dinner. This is obviously the greatest honor I've ever received, and I owe a huge amount of thanks and gratitude to many of my assistant coaches and our players over these years who have helped make this award possible." 

2. This year's semifinals are upcoming. You've taken five different schools to the semifinals, a state record. When taking the job as head coach at a new school, what are some of your first priorities? What are the most important things to get in place right away? "Before taking a new job, I would always find out several things before accepting the job. Number one would be about the coaches - how many can I bring in and how many want to stay. I would try to find someone at the school, maybe the principal or athletic director, who could give me an honest evaluation about their football assistants. Then I would contact coaches I wanted to bring in and see if there was any interest in coming. If the move was too far away from home and it was going to be necessary to move, I would need a guarantee that my wife would have a teaching job. I would be concerned about how many classes I would have to teach. I would have also contacted someone to find out about the talent at the school and about the football tradition if I was not already aware of it. I would also find out how supportive the administration and community were of the football program. Salaries and coaching supplements and 11-month and 12-month contracts would have already been worked out." 

3. You've had a history of taking programs that have struggled and made them successful. What's the biggest difference between programs that win and don't? "Several things are important when you take a new job, whether they are winning or losing. And I feel that being positive is extremely important in any situation. This must include the entire staff. You can't have five or six of your staff encouraging your players and one or two berating certain players and telling them they're no good. I would tell our coaches all the time, 'Coach your guys like you would coach your son.' And I hoped they liked their own sons. The first thing I would try to find out about our players is what they can do best. To do this, we would start a workout program after school well before spring practice started which would include agility work, form running, sprints and a weight program (if there was not a weight program during the day). I would certainly want weight classes during the regular school day. I think the most important thing in coaching is getting your players in the right positions in your offense and defense. Don't ask them to do something they cannot do. Why try to run a shotgun spread offense if your quarterback is not a good passer? You need to have a comprehensive offense and defense that you can adjust to your talent every year. You can determine a lot of things in well-structured and organized agility drills. Be organized. Be disciplined on and off the field." 

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4. How involved in the game are you today? How many games have you seen this year, and what are your plans for the next two rounds? Will you be at a game Friday, and what about the finals in Mercedes-Benz Stadium? "Three or four years ago, I had five former assistants who were head coaches in Gwinnett County and two more who were in other counties. I would go to a different game every Friday night trying to support these guys. I also would go to Winder where our older son is athletic director, and when our younger son was principal at Dunwoody I would visit their program. I do some free consulting when asked. I am a board member of the Walton-Barrow County Fellowship of Christian Athletes and am sometimes asked to speak to a team during their game week. I enjoy going to practices every now and then. I have never been in Mercedes-Benz Stadium but am looking forward to going to some of the state championship games in two weeks." [Some of the McFerrin's former assistants who are head coaches now are Shannon Jarvis of Mill Creek and John Small at East Coweta. Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford is one of McFerrin's former players at Elbert County.] 

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