Coach Autrey was a class act
He stood no more than 5-foot-8, if that, yet he towered over most everyone in town.
He was so bow legged he couldn’t touch his knees together to save his life, but he could outrun half the kids in his P.E. class.
He wore shorts and short-sleeve shirts year round, and his glasses were held together by athletic tape.
He almost always had a smile on his face. Unless one of his offensive linemen had just been flagged for holding, then he had his hands full of facemask and a scowl that would make even the biggest, meanest lineman tremble.
He was known to everyone around town as “Coach.”
He was Jim Autrey.
Coach Autrey coached football at Greenville High School, Greenville Academy and Fort Dale Academy. He had his share of success on the field at each stop, maybe most notably during his stints at GA and FDA where he often took undersized teams with less than 20 players on their rosters deep into the postseason.
His achievements as a coach landed him in the Alabama Independent School Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2001. An honor that was well deserved.
As we kick off a new football season, I can’t help but think about all the times I sat in the stands as an elementary student at Fort Dale and watched Coach Autrey pacing up and down the sidelines, barking instructions to his players and shouting the occasional, “Gosh doggit, son!”
To this day, when I picture what a football coach should be, I see Coach Autrey. He was so tough that you’d swear he ate nails for breakfast. He set high expectations for his teams and then pushed his players to exceed those expectations by the shedding blood, sweat and a few tears.
But Coach’s Autrey’s impact went far beyond the football field.
He had a positive influence on hundreds of people throughout the county from football players, to cheerleaders, to students in his history and P.E. classes to the parents of players and even the fans that attended his teams’ games.
Coach Autrey taught everyone he met, and even those that simply watched him coach, how to be a winner by working hard, never giving up and, above all, always acting with class.
He may have been small in stature, but his legacy is that of a giant.