October 2, 2009 8:33:00 AM
HAMILTON -- Change doesn''t faze Robert Herman Tucker.
Whether it has been as a teacher, coach, or parent, Tucker has seen offenses and defense come and go. He has worked his share of jobs, including stints in the auto parts manufacturing business and in the insurance industry. He also has had his share of health issues, including a quintuple-bypass heart surgery last February.
Through it all, though, Tucker, as he is fond of calling himself, is still involved in athletics and is still doing what he loves: Having a positive impact on the lives of teenagers.
As a volunteer assistant coach with the Hamilton High School football team, Tucker uses a unique brand of coaching that has stood the test of time to help keep the Lions loose and prepared.
"You have to teach blocking and tackling and be honest with your kids," Tucker said. "If you tell them something, you better do it. You have to keep discipline and be honest and teach them the fundamentals of football. That football still bounces crazy when it hits the ground. If you don''t block and tackle, you''re not going to win football games."
Tucker, 76, said he probably is the oldest active assistant football coach in the state of Mississippi. He smiles when he says it because he enjoys being back at a school where he coached in the early to mid 1960s. The years couldn''t be verified, but Tucker said was the "first real" football coach at Hamilton High in 1964-65. He said he coached at the school for two seasons, and guided the Lions to a 7-3 record in 1965.
He also said the ninth-grade football team went 7-0 in 1965 and was the school''s first undefeated team.
Tucker coached football and boys basketball for two years at Centerville High in Wilkinson County before coming to Hamilton High. He said his goal was to get back to the Golden Triangle area because he calls Starkville home. His parents and his wife''s were from Starkville, so they wanted to return to the area.
Tucker got out of coaching after working at Hamilton High and went to work for a manufacturer in Aberdeen that built automobile exhaust systems. He said he had planned to move to Florida for a teaching job, but he was offered more money to work for the manufacturing company, and wound up in that business for more than 20 years.
Tucker stepped away from coaching at the time and became a high school football official until his sons, Andy and Bruce, graduated high school and went on to play football in college. Andy signed a scholarship to play football at Southern Miss, while Bruce signed a scholarship to play football at Delta State.
Tucker worked in the insurance business in Aberdeen for eight or nine years before he quit. From there, Tucker found his way back to Hamilton High and then onto the football field.
Tucker returned to Hamilton High in 2003 to help with in-school suspension students. He said Hamilton High football coach Richard Kendrick quickly asked him if he would help with the football program.
Things haven''t changed.
Tucker remains as a volunteer coach, now on the staff of current Hamilton High football coach Ray Weeks, whose first season at the school was 2004.
"He is just a lot of fun to be around," Weeks said. "He never has a bad day. He coaches hard and the kids love him. You never know what to expect from him."
Weeks said Tucker blends "old-school" coaching methods with new ways of relating to kids. Some things, though, never change in coaching, which is why Weeks said Tucker still relates well to the players.
"He is pretty disciplined," Weeks said. "He doesn''t mind getting on them and correcting them, if necessary, but before a kid leaves for the day he is probably doing something funny with them He is kind of laid back with them and can joke with them. The kids respect that."
Tucker said football is a lot more complicated than it was when he first coached. But he said coaches can''t go wrong if they focus on the fundamentals. He stressed honesty is the key.
"If you promise to kiss them, you better kiss them," Ticker said. "If you promise to whip them, you better whip them."
Tucker said his father and mother were teachers and his dad was a coach, so it seemed natural he would follow in their steps.
His father, Herman, died when he was 2 years old and he and his mother, Anne Kate, were living in Philadelphia when his mother remarried and the family moved to Starkville.
Tucker, who was 6-foot-2, 150 pounds in high school, played football, boys basketball, and baseball in high school. He served in the Navy in the Korean Conflict and went on to graduate from Mississippi State in 1959.
Tucker doesn''t know how he came up with his sayings, which have earned the nickname "Tuckerisms" ("My folks were born in the Depression. They couldn''t afford but one name."), but they reflect a way of life that has kept him going strong through the years.
"My dad has always been the kind of man who is always positive and always tries to find a positive in any kind of negative out there," Andy Tucker said. "It made no difference what you did in life, He told us to act like Tucker and keep the Tuckerism in you and you will be all right."
Andy and Bruce said they both try to live their lives the way their father taught them. They said sports remain a special part of their father''s life, and said his work with the football team keeps him young.
And while the players will continue to come and go, Tucker will remain. He said next season might be his last, but his sons aren''t too sure.
They believe he will continue to impart his life lessons, and his "Tuckerisms," to football players for as long as he can, and do it in a positive manner.
"One of my dad''s favorite sayings is it is real easy to talk about the bad parts of anything in life, but, at the same time, you need to let a fella know when he has done something right," Andy Tucker said. "That has been his philosophy and his way of coaching and just the way he is in general."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.