May 12, 2010 9:20:00 AM
Tyrone Shorter didn''t intend to stay in Noxubee County.
Fresh off a training camp stint with the NFL''s San Diego Chargers and a year with the CFL''s Edmonton Eskimos, Shorter moved back to Macon to be closer to his mother, who had just remarried.
Shorter''s step father knew a man -- M.C. Miller -- who changed those plans.
Miller, the coach of the Noxubee County High School football team, remembered Shorter from his playing days at Port Gibson High School, and it didn''t take him long to offer him a job as an assistant coach on his staff.
"I saw the direction coach Miller was trying to go in and I liked the idea of what he was doing," Shorter said of his first job as secondary coach. "We started sending kids to camps and going to camps with them, and we started to see the kids grow and to see the talent here in Noxubee County. Once the kids found out they could win, that''s when the program took off. We started building a tradition here and it is what we have now."
Shorter''s new job will be to build on that tradition.
On Monday, the Noxubee County School Board approved the hiring of Shorter as Noxubee County High''s new head football coach. Shorter replaces Miller, who is the new head football coach at Louisville High.
"It is going to be very hard and I have some big shoes to fill," said Shorter, 37. "It is always hard when you take over a winning program. It would be a whole lot easier if I was taking over a program that is down, but to follow a legend like coach Miller is going to be hard. I am a little nervous about it, but I am not nervous about what I can do as a coach."
Shorter spent the last 11 years as an assistant coach on Miller''s staff. He began his coaching career in 1998 and worked as secondary coach before he moved up to defensive coordinator, where he worked for the past six years. He spent the past four years as assistant head coach.
In that time, Miller and his coaches built Noxubee County High into one of the state''s top programs. The Tigers advanced to the Class 4A State title game in 2007 and ''08. Noxubee County defeated D''Iberville 12-10 in ''08 for the school''s first football state title.
Noxubee County (12-2) won the Class 4A, Region 4 title in 2009 but lost to Itawamba Agricultural High in the third round of the playoffs.
This season, Shorter said the Tigers will be young (10 seniors), but he said he is ready to break in a new group and to deal with the high expectations the program faces. Shorter said the things he learned from Miller made him a better coach and prepared him for his new job.
Noxubee County School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Jones said Shorter''s familiarity with the school system and the athletic program were bonuses as the school board moved quickly to try to replace Miller. He is confident Shorter, a physical education teacher at Noxubee County Middle School, will do a fine job.
"Everyone feels confident about what he is going to do, but people are going to have to give him a chance," Jones said. "He''s going to have to build a staff and a team, and that doesn''t happen overnight. Everyone is going to have to pull together and work with him at the high school and at the junior high to achieve our mission, which is to help the children have success academically as well as athletically."
Shorter signed a football scholarship to play at Alcorn State out of Port Gibson High. He spent two seasons at Hinds Community College before transferring to Austin Peay. He was invited to the San Diego Chargers'' training camp in 1996 and made the practice squad before he was hurt. He then spent a year playing football (defensive back) in Canada (1997) before he returned to Mississippi.
Shorter planned to stay only a year in the state. He said he was in between opportunities when Miller offered him a job as an assistant coach. He received an invitation to go to training camp with the Tennessee Titans, but opted to follow the dream he had in college and go into coaching.
"I fell in love with the kids," said Shorter, who also coached junior high and ninth-grade football. "I never stayed a long time (in Noxubee County). I had no idea what it was like in Noxubee County."
Shorter has since become a fixture in the community. He said he turned down two job offers to become a head coach to remain with the program he helped build. He said he is excited to incorporate some of his ideas to what Miller did with the program to help it remain one of the state''s best.
"I am going to work my butt off and, hopefully, we''ll get a coaching staff to do what we need to do to keep the program on top," Shorter said. He said he has three assistant coaches on staff as the Tigers prepare for their spring finale at 7 p.m. Thursday at New Hope. He said he hopes to hire three more coaches to complete his staff.
"We''re still going to be aggressive and fly to the football," Shorter said. "I learned this defense from coach Miller and I am going to insert my ideas into it. It has been successful over the years and I am not going to change that."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.