To say that Houston (Texas) Madison High football coach Ray Seals is a coaching legend might be an understatement. The longtime East Texas headman spent 46 years prowling Texas sidelines. In the past 23 years he's spent at Madison alone, Seals won 202 games and helped an astounding 252 players earn college scholarships.
At last, Seals decided to walk away after waffling on his retirement for two seasons, yet, according to the Houston Chronicle, he waited until mid-June, nearly a full month after most school districts let out in Texas, to come to grips with his decision.
"It was very tough telling them," Seals told the Chronicle of the meeting in which he told his players of his retirement. "It wasn't easy. That's why I waited so late; I had to be sure it was a decision I could live with. There's no good time to walk away. It's just time for me to start another phase of my life."
Among other stars, Seals coached and mentored former Texas star turned Titans quarterback Vince Young and 49ers fullback Moran Norris. Like all the players he tutored, Seals said that his goal was to provide a measure of male guidance in the lives of teenagers who often are raised without one; Seals estimated that 75 percent of his players in recent years have been raised in households without a present father figure.
For that reason, Seals said that he looks back on his role in helping mold the lives of young men as a much more significant achievement than any of the other honors he's been presented with.
That's saying something, considering the fact that he was named the 2008 NFL High School Coach of the Year and, more recently, the inaugural winner of the Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year.
"The number of kids we sent to college, to me, is the most rewarding thing of my career," Seals told the Chronicle. "Not those awards or games that I won."
While he hasn't decided what he will do next, Seals said that he hopes to find another way to work with children and try to make a difference in their lives. Given what he dedicated his life to, that probably should come as no surprise.
Madison isn't left with much time to find Seals' successor, but there should be other members of its existing staff who can step forward to take an active role in maintaining Seals' traditions with the program, whether as head coaches or assistants.
One thing is certain: No matter how many games Seals' successor wins and loses, their tenure will be considered a major success if they have anywhere near as large an impact as Seals did.
"Coaches are given a unique opportunity. We have to be there for them. That's the part I'm going to miss; it's not about football. I had a great dad who spent time with me. I had coaches who cared. They made me do what's right. Hopefully, I've made some small difference." [...]
"I hope they learned how to be better men," he said. "I preached being a good son, a good father, a good Christian. That was my speech to them every day. That's what I talked about this week.
"I hope they know I did the best I could."