High School Sports

Longtime Coast high school football coach calls it quits

David Russell, who coached football at D’Iberville, Biloxi and West harrison, is retiring.
David Russell, who coached football at D’Iberville, Biloxi and West harrison, is retiring. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

After 28 years, veteran football coach David Russell is retiring.

Russell was head coach at three high schools: D’Iberville, Biloxi and West Harrison. Among his assistant jobs were Moss Point and D’Iberville. His coaching career began in 1987.

“The timing was right for my new adventure,” he said. “It was time to retire. I’ll miss the kids, but I won’t miss the grind.”

Russell had a 69-72 record as head coach. At D’Iberville from 1997 to 2001, he went 40-21 record. He was 21-29 in three seasons at Biloxi (2002-2006) and 8-22 at West Harrison (2009-2012).

Before he became a coach, he was a standout running back in the 1980s. He graduated from D’Iberville in 1982 as the school’s career rushing leader. He was also a stellar running back on Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s national title team in 1984.

“It was fun to play for Coach Buddy Singleton at D’Iberville and George Sekul at Gulf Coast,” Russell said. “Singleton was like a second father to me. It was fun to play for Sekul. We were phenomenal on offense and defense. We ran the no-huddle offense when nobody else was running it.”

Russell also credited his coaching success to former Moss Point coach Jerry Alexander. He was an assistant on the Tigers’ Class 5A state title team in 1991.

“Jerry Alexander was my coaching mentor,” Russell said. “I learned discipline was the key. There’s no shortcut. We worked for everything.”

Two of Russell’s favorite memories as coach came at D’Iberville and Biloxi. In 2000, Torey Staten rushed for a state-record 517 yards against East Central in 2000. Staten also broke Russell’s career rushing record. At Biloxi, Russell coached Damion Fletcher, a eventual record-setting running back at Southern Miss.

“I was spoiled early in my coaching career,” Russell said. “It was exciting to see Torey run for a state record. He was a fine young man who worked hard. A lot of people don’t know is that he had 120 yards called back because of penalties the night he set the record. I coached Damion, who ended up as Southern Miss’ career rushing leader.”

Russell produced an impressive coaching tree among his former players. The list includes D’Iberville High defensive coordinator Jason Hockaday, D’Iberville powerlifting coach Josh Ladner, West Harrison head basketball coach Tommy Searight and West Harrison track coach Carlton Cotten.

“Coach Russell meant a lot to all of us,” Hockaday said. “He motivated us to play the game of football, not only with intensity and desire for the sport itself, but with great passion and love for for each other. He glorified what it meant to be a D’Iberville Warrior.

“We knew we were not only playing for ourselves when we put that black-and-gold uniform on, but we were playing for every player, coach and community member that has made or is presently making D’Iberville football the tradition it is today.”

Searight applies lessons learned under Russell to the Hurricanes’ basketball program.

“Without Coach Russell, there would be no Coach Searight in the coaching business,” Searight said. “Coach Russell inspired me to become a better man on and off the field. He taught me the value of having a strong work ethic and why it was important to be disciplined.”

Cotten coached West Harrison to a share of the 5A Girls track title. Ladner coached D’Iberville to the 6A state powerlifting crown a few years back.

“As a coach, I remember him being an amazing leader with great character,” Cotten said. “He had a great relationship with my family. He enforced great teamwork and was able to get the best out of the athletes. As a colleague, he gave me an opportunity to be the coach I am today. He always made sure I was making good, sound decisions that were good for my family.”

Added Ladner: “He was very inspirational for me in my younger years. He challenged us to become a team and to be disciplined. He will always be a part of our Warrior family.”

James Jones: 228-896-2320, @_jkjones