King preparing for 25th season

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By Goose Lindsay

When people are asked about Kingston football, some of the things that come to mind are winning, pride, championships and tradition.


But when people are asked about one name that is the most synonymous with Kingston football, the answer too most would be current head coach Vic King. King was a star for the Yellow Jackets in the mid-’60s. and Friday night he will begin his 25th year as head coach of his alma mater.

“It sure doesn’t seem like it’s been 25 years,” King said. “It seems like only yesterday that Sim Porter and Hal Leffew hired me. I’m so thankful they gave me this opportunity. There’s no place like Kingston.”


Life before Kingston


Believe it or not, King has spent only part of his life on Roane County High School’s Dr. Nat Sugarman Memorial Field. 

He was a star player for Kingston for coaches Bill Long and Jess Plemons.

“Coach Long and Coach Plemons were two big reasons why I wanted to become a coach,” King said. “They taught me a lot of what I know, and I still use a lot of what I learned from them today.”

King then went to the University of Kentucky and played for Charlie Bradshaw’s Wildcats. After graduating from Lexington in 1970, he got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant coach with the Wildcats.

After one season with the Wildcats, King returned to Tennessee and rejoined  Long, this time as a member of his coaching staff at Crossville. King stayed in Cumberland County until Long’s retirement five years later. He then headed back to the college ranks and joined Bradshaw again as an offensive coordinator at Troy State University. 

King would also coach at Tulane University before he was given the opportunity to return to Kingston.

“I worked with some many great coaches and coached a lot of great players in my 10 years of college coaching,” he said. “Just about everything I know about the game of football I learned in those 10 years.”


Coming Home


While King says he enjoyed coaching at the collegiate level, there was no way he was going to turn down Porter and Leffew’s offer in 1986.

“For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it took so long for me to come back home,” King said. “This is the job I was wanting, and the second smartest thing I’ve done in my life was to take this job and move back home. The smartest thing I ever did was to marry my high school sweetheart, Nancy Ludwig.”

It didn’t take long for King to make an impact at Kingston. The Jackets went 5-5 and 6-5 in his first two seasons, but between 1988 and 1990, the Jackets completed three straight perfect regular seasons, and ever since the Jackets have been known as one of the toughest teams to beat in East Tennessee.

King, however, says his early success was more about talent that his abilities as a coach. 

“I was green as a gourd as a head coach when I got here,” he said. “The thing that saved me is I had a lot of good players. If it wasn’t for the players I’ve had, I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I did.”


The Players


King doesn’t spend a lot of time tooting his own horn about his coaching ability. He can’t tell you how many games he’s won. But if you want to see his eyes light up, just start talking about some of the athletes who have donned the orange and blue uniforms of Kingston over the years.

“There have been a lot of great players and great families that have made Kingston football what it is over the years,” King said. “I played with some great players, and now their children are playing for me. In some instances, I even have some of my teammates grandkids playing for me.

“There have been so many great players that have played for me, and I know I can’t name them all, but all the players that have played here mean so much to me.

“I guess you have to start with Kevin Mays. What a great player he was. He’s a great person, and he has a great family with two sons and a beautiful wife.”

Mays was an All-American at Kingston in the late ‘80s and went on to be an All-SEC performer at the University of Tennessee. 

Mays, however, wasn’t the only other player mentioned by King. He named dozens of players over the past 25 years

“Guys like Marty Bunch, Brian Zumstein, Hugh Melton, Dillon and Josh Plemons, Carl and Landis Witherspoon, Andy Witt, Scott Guinn, Barry Marlow, Jamie Raymer, Tommy Walden, Ryan Blount, Jim Lambert, Aaron Roberts, Brad Moore, all the Froggs- Sammy, Darrell and Michael- Adam and Matt Brown, Robert and Michael Harrell, Maurice and John John Hamilton, Daniel Huddleston, Lance, Eric and Stacy Moore, Matt Meyer, Ryan King, Brian and Michael Sharp were all great players back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

Here recently we’ve had guys like Redbird (Justin) and Jason Givens, Alex Roberts, James Sams and Chris Stout that were really good players.”

He added “I know there are several more players that I can’t remember, and I want to apologize to anyone I’ve left out.”

 King also listed players such as Brian Pankey, who went on to be the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year while at Tennessee Tech, and Stephen Plemons, Wiley Brackett, Robbie Collier, Wade Creswell and Loftin Gerberding. All played for Kingston and have coached at Kingston under King. Collier is currently an assistant coach at Webb while Brackett is the head coach at Oliver Springs.

Brackett’s experience as both a player and coach under King is something he’ll never forget.

“They don’t come any better than Coach King,” Brackett said. “He’s a great role model to all the young people of Kingston, and that’s not just the ones that play football. If you ever played for Coach King you know that he loved you. You don’t see many coaches like Coach King anymore where they’re in it for the love of their community and not necessarily for moving on to a better job.”


The Games


During King’s 24 years as head coach, the Jackets have won 186 while dropping only 89. The Jackets have also put together six perfect regular seasons during that span and they have also won the district/region nine times while making the playoffs 17 times.

Despite all that success, King says it’s some of the 89 losses suffered since 1986 that he remembers most. Two of the most memorable were a 22-15 loss to Alcoa in the TSSAA Class AA semifinals and a 35-34 loss to Melrose in the 1998 TSSAA Class AAA Championship Game.  Both games he says he wishes he could have done just a little more as a head coach.

“The bad part is you have great teams, but it’s the losses I remember the most,” King said. “I just remember in ‘89 and ‘98 that those kids played their guts out and I didn’t do enough to get things to go our way.”

King has fond memories of coaching rivalry games.

“You have to play your region games, but I know what games our fans want to see, and that’s the games I try to schedule,” he said. “People want to see us play Harriman, Rockwood, Oliver Springs, Lenoir City and Loudon. We can’t schedule them every year, but we do our best.”

King is at his best in those rivalry games, as the Jackets have posted a 55-10 record in county games since 1986.

Ten of those wins and 14 games overall have been head-to-head with Rockwood’s John Webb, who is entering his 15th season at Rockwood. Webb believes King’s success comes through a program he has built over time.

“Vic’s a great guy, and he’s done a great job for that program over the years,” Webb said. “There’s certain things you come to expect from Coach King’s teams. You know they’re going to be well coached, you know they’re going to be disciplined and you know they’re going to play hard.” 


Coaching Stability


Besides having great players, King is also quick to point out that he has had a lot of great coaches helping him. Most of his current coaches have been with him for years.

“It’s very important to have stability in the coaching staff, and I’ve been blessed to have some good assistant coaches over the years,” King said. “Most of our staff have been here for years. They’re all Christian men and have been an asset to our team. Coach (Billy) Linville has been here pretty much the whole time, and I don’t know what I’d do without him. Coaches Pankey, Plemons, Creswell, Gerberding, (Bob) Johnson and (Keith) Anderson have all done a tremendous job in making Kingston football what it is.

“Kingston has had only five coaches (King, Long, Plemons, Jim “Hoot” Gibson, and Reeves Derryberry) in the past 50 years and that stability means a lot to a program.”  


It Takes a Community


King says the best thing about coaching at Kingston is the community. King says so many people work behind the scenes to make Kingston football a success. They do it to help the youth of the community,  he said not just to win games.

“It’s been a community effort and it’s been for the young people of Kingston,” King said. “The Century Club has done such a great job for us. There’s no telling how many thousands of dollars they have raised for all sports at Kingston.”

Some of biggest team supporters include Ronnie Morton, Jerry Pickell, Arthur Rivers, Jim Rivers, Jim Ryans, Fred Baker, Gary Botkin, Bob Creswell, Bobby Collier and Frank Kolski.

“So many people have been involved with helping us over the years and I’d like to thank them all, but it’s kind of like all the great players, I know I’ll forget somebody,” King said. “Ronnie Morton has done everything for us. He doesn’t coach, but I don’t know what I would do without him. Jerry Pickell is another guy that gives his time to line the fields for us every week. Fred Baker has been filming our games for 20 years.

“It’s people like this that don’t get a lot of credit, but they have made Kingston football what it is. A lot of people have been good to me along the way.”


The Legacy


After spending 40 years in coaching and the last 25 at Kingston, King will no doubt go down as one of the greats to ever coach in Roane County, and Tennessee, for that matter.

King, however, said it’s way too soon start thinking about life after football.

“I’ve never even thought about it (retiring),” King said. “I’m still a relatively young man, or I think so anyway, and I love doing what I’m doing. If it ever gets to the point where I don’t have any fun when I step out on that field, then I’ll know it’s time, but I just don’t see that happening. Plus I don’t hunt or fish, so what else would I do?

“I enjoy this age group and helping these kids become men. They come in here green as a gourd, but I hope when they leave here that they are ready to step out in the world,” he added.

“It’s a good feeling when you think you’ve helped a kid.”