When school returns to session in August, it will mark the first time in 31 years that Kenny Tucker won’t be in the classroom or on the sidelines.
Tucker began his teaching career at the old William James Middle School in 1981, was part of the faculty at the new WJMS in its first year of existence, then moved to Statesboro High, where he spent the final 14 years of his career.
For Tucker, years of educating youngsters didn’t stop after the final bell of the day.
All but one of Tucker’s years in the Bulloch County school system saw him coaching during football season. Tucker finished his career as Statesboro’s offensive coordinator after helping to coach the Blue Devils to eight region titles and state championships in 2001 and 2005.
Statesboro’s baseball team also owes a lot of its success over the years to Tucker. He served as an assistant for four seasons before assuming a head coaching tenure that accumulated 203 wins and six region titles before stepping away from baseball in 1998.
Tucker made the tough choice to call it a career during Statesboro’s spring football practices in May.
“I wrestled with it for a while, but I have peace with it,” Tucker said. “I know that I’m going to miss it, but I think it’s the right choice. I just thank all of the students and parents from along the way that have given me the opportunity to teach and coach them.”
For all that Tucker has given to the Blue Devils over the years, they weren’t about to let him go without a bit of a sendoff.
SHS coach Steve Pennington was informed of Tucker’s decision shortly after spring practice began, but asked him to continue through the end of the two-week session to impart one last bit of knowledge on the 2013 squad. Tucker’s last day on the field saw the sidelines filled with the
coaches he has worked so closely with, as well as his daughter, Sarah, and Portal head coach David NeSmith, who was a freshman during Tucker’s first season as a coach.
Such a long tenure has made Tucker’s mark as a solid teacher and coach —evident by congratulations and sentiment pouring in from coaches who have moved on from Statesboro, but still remember Tucker.
Tucker could have easily moved on as well, but a love for the town and his commitment to teaching and building his students and players always came first.
“I guess I’m pretty lucky,” Tucker said. “The first job I interviewed for has been the only one I’ve had. It’s been an honor to be a part of so many young people’s lives for 31 years.
“I know that a lot gets judged by the games you win or lose, but I think that all of us coaches wanted more than that for the kids. The championships are nice, but the best part of being here all this time is seeing those kids grow up to become good husbands and fathers and quality members of the community.”
The headset has been hung up, but Tucker’s love of sports will easily outlive his coaching career as he is now working with Hobbs Sporting Goods.
He might not call the play on the Devils’ next game-winning touchdown, but the game ball might still come courtesy of Coach Tucker.
“I won’t be coaching, but I’ll be there watching in the fall, cheering everyone on,” Tucker said. “Statesboro had great tradition and success long before I got here. I’m sure that it will stay that way in the future.”
Maybe so, but the last 31 years weren’t too bad, either.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.