Sam and Diane McCorkle

Sam McCorkle is pictured with his wife, Diane, at the 2020 American Football Coaches Convention in Nashville, where McCorkle had received a lifetime membership award to the American Football Coaches Association.

Sam McCorkle’s coaching career spanned across the South and throughout the high school, junior college and collegiate levels.

A Meridian High School graduate, McCorkle played on the offensive line for Livingston University — now West Alabama — for head coach Mickey Andrews and started his coaching career at Livingston as a graduate assistant in 1973. From there, his coaching career spanned almost five decades and included stints as head coach of Livingston (1985-90 and later from 2004-05 after it became West Alabama) and UT-Martin (2000-02). Most recently, he coached at Lamar as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach last fall.

McCorkle, 70, recently retired, citing the risk of COVID-19 in his age group and a desire to do things outside of coaching.

“I have some really good friends I take several trips with a year, and one of them was really looking forward to retiring,” McCorkle explained. “He retired, and then within a month he died. I just got to thinking about that. My son (Blaine McCorkle) is also the coach at Belhaven, and I wanted to see them play. I figured if I was going to do things I was looking forward to doing, I needed to go ahead and do them.”

Coaching with Lamar football coach Mac Barnes, who was a teammate of McCorkle’s at MHS, was a rewarding experience, McCorkle said, especially since it gave him an opportunity to move back to his hometown after coaching at Oxford High School from 2016-18.

“I loved coaching with Mac; that was awesome, and I like the kids there,” McCorkle said. “Me retiring had nothing to do with that. I just felt like it was time to do some different things.”

McCorkle spent 23 years in the collegiate coaching ranks and coached the rest of his 47 years in high school. The main thing that kept him around the sport so long was the people he met and the lifelong relationships he’s developed.

“When you’re young and starting out, you’re really excited about a lot of things like wearing coaches clothes on Friday nights, but after a while it’s about the relationships you’ve built along the way,” McCorkle said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be around some wonderful people, players and coaches. … I don’t go many days without talking to someone who was either a teammate, a coach or player that I’ve been involved with in the sport, and that’s the best thing about it.”

In addition to lasting friendships, McCorkle said he has other fond memories such as when he was an assistant coach at Vanderbilt in 1984 when it beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He also enjoys seeing the success of his former players, one of them being NFL defensive end Trey Flowers, who McCorkle coached in 2008 at Columbia High School in Alabama. Flowers would go on to play at Arkansas and get drafted by the Patriots, with whom he won two Super Bowls.

“It’s hard to pick any one memory I’m fond of,” McCorkle said. “I just like seeing the players go on and do things, different things like coaching and businesses. All kinds of things.”

Now that he won’t be coaching, McCorkle said he’ll have to find new ways to pass the time.

“Forty-seven years is a pretty good while,” McCorkle said. “I don’t know (if it’s hit me yet). My son asked me what I’m going to do in August, and I told him it isn’t August yet, so I don’t know. As far as coaching, sometimes I see things that would be fun to do, but I think it was time to go ahead and move on.”

That said, McCorkle hasn’t completely closed the door on coaching in the future, though he doesn’t think it’s likely.

“I don’t think it’s out of the question,” McCorkle said. “I don’t want to move again — Meridian is home for us — but I’m probably through.”

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