Monday, January 5, 2015

The Paradox of Coach Jim Lofton By Fletcher Law, assistant coach 1991-1993, North Hall

      Written in June 2014 and re-posted after Coach Jim Lofton's funeral.

                                  The Paradox of Coach Jim Lofton
                                       By Fletcher Law, assistant coach 1991-1993, North Hall

Coach Jim Lofton has built a well-known reputation for his football coaching and Christian character.
What is less known about him by those who did not know him in his coaching career is perhaps his equal devotion to teaching.  This was never in doubt working for him.  This is another lesson young coaches can learn from him.  As a young assistant he made a lasting impression on how a coach has a calling to teach your academic area, your sport and character by example.

A vivid memory of mine was once walking out of the North Hall field house through the washroom.
Future Clemson Tiger and NFL lineman Corey Hulsey, all 6’4 and 330 plus pounds of him and fully dressed out in pads, was sitting on the washer with his helmet by his side.  Coach Lofton was standing by him with an open book.  It was not a playbook on how to block 14 Blast.  Coach had in his hand an English Literature book helping Corey with Shakespeare.  Many people would not know that Coach had a master’s degree in English from Emory University.  I was surprised to learn that Corey was not even in Coach Lofton’s class.  Coach was delaying getting on the field for Lit for a student who also was a football player.  

As a new coach I was warned by defensive coordinator David Stephens about Coach Lofton’s intensity on the sideline on a Friday night.  Another paradox about Coach Lofton was our practices were teaching sessions.  Game days were different.  The coin had been flipped and the kick-off team I headed up was huddling up ready to start the game.  Coach Lofton grabbed my shoulder and hollered “I can’t believe that!”  “What?” was my shocked and puzzled response.  Coach said “There’s (name deleted to protect the guilty) in the stands.  I taught him freshman Health and he played here four years.  And now he is up there smoking a cigarette.”  In shock and disappointment he added “After all I taught him.”  Teaching freshman Health class was as important as Literature or running the 14 Blast or 20 trap properly.

One practice I was concerned about telling Coach that I had to leave early on the next day’s practice because the school I taught at was having a PTA meeting.  He told me sternly that it concerned him  greatly to see coaches not take teaching seriously.  He told me once at practice he was concerned about having a soft drink ad on the scoreboard.  Coach was concerned about what even his students drank and ate for snacks.  He believed in his system he had formulated by being a student.  He was always improving himself and refining his system to see why he included certain stretches and exercises and play calls.  He had a system and he was always refining it. He taught his assistant coaches his system.  We all knew what all eleven were to do on every play.  He and we knew what all eleven were to do on defense.

One of his assistants told me a clinic story.  Coach Lofton was listening to Bill Yeoman the inventor of the Houston veer offense speak.  Coach asked the big time college coach what the backside tackle was to do on the outside veer.  The “expert” coach told Coach Lofton he did not know.  This was astounding for Coach.  This is perhaps why were to be taught the idea of the “big picture”.

Coach Lofton taught and led his assistant coaches in a clear direction.  We followed him. The players were to follow us.  There was no paradox in this.  Where could he have learned how to lead, coach and teach by character in all things?  The Apostle Paul wrote- 

1 Corinthians 11:1  (NIV) “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

No comments:

Post a Comment