End of an era at Southside

Published 11:03 am Thursday, October 18, 2012

Southside football coach DeWayne Kellum (second from left) announced he is retiring at the end of the year and will be coaching his final home game this Friday when the Seahawks take on Riverside at 7:30 p.m. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

CHOCOWINITY — This Friday Southside head football coach DeWayne Kellum will pace the sidelines of The Nest for what is expected to be the last time when he leads his team against Riverside at 7:30 p.m.
After 33 years of drawing up plays and dissecting game film, the Seahawks’ longtime football coach has declared that this season will be his final one at the helm.
During his time at Chocowinity High School, which became Southside High School in 1999, Kellum has dedicated countless hours molding teams into winners and young athletes into men, and was successful on both accounts.
Kellum, who coached baseball and basketball before becoming the head football coach at Chocowinity High in 1985, reached the third round of the playoffs three times at Chocowinity before falling to bigger schools that  he would have never had to face in today’s NCHSAA classification system.
In the mid 2000’s Kellum’s Seahawks’ were the standard of Eastern N.C. 1-A football as he reached the state championship game in 2002 and 2004.
Aside from bringing Southside numerous wins and conference championships, Kellum brought a tough-love approach to the game to and to every practice. His players not only learned what it took to be winners on the football field, but what it took to reach that same level of success in life.
Repaying Kellum for dedicating nearly half his life to his school and athletes is a debt that can never be cleared. The best way Southside, and sports fans alike, can show their appreciation is to flock to The Nest on Friday and give the legendary coach the raucous round of applause he deserves when his Seahawks take the field.
“We’re definitely going to miss him,” said Sean White, who served on Kellum’s staff from 2001 to 2006 before becoming Southside’s athletic director. “He started everything here … He’s a big asset to the school, not just in football, he’s coaching track too, and he’s coached just about every other sport here. He’s a great teacher, a great coach and a great friend.”
Kellum’s sports career began at Chocowinity High where he played quarterback until he graduated in 1977. From there, he walked on to the N.C. State football team and earned a scholarship before transferring to East Carolina.
It was there he met his future wife Joanie, a gymnast for Pirates, and began to pursue his degree in physical education.
While he met the love of his life at ECU, his adulation for coaching began at N.C. State under the late coach Bo Ryan.
“My second year at State I had a herniated disk and didn’t know it, and if you get picked for the No. 1 scout team, which I did my freshman year, you watch film of the other team and you have to portray them so you spend more time with the coaches than a lot of the starters do,” Kellum said.
“I had some great coaches in high school, but at that level you pick up so much from listening to all the coaches.”
Kellum wasted no time pursuing his dream as he accepted an offer from Jim Henderson to coach baseball and basketball (where he won the conference regular season and tourney titles his first year) at Chocowinity while he was still attending ECU.
“By then I knew what I wanted to do,” Kellum said. “And back then when a job was offered to you, you didn’t turn it down.”
Kellum had success coaching on the diamond and on hardwood, but by 1985 he was offered the opportunity to become the school’s head football coach and ran with it.
“Baseball was too slow for me, basketball I loved, but football I like for the mere fact that the coaches have more input,” Kellum said. “The main thing I liked about football is that (the athlete) didn’t have to be a total package. Kids can come out and be good at one thing and help out, and that’s what I like about football.”
Kellum said he had several major coaching influences throughout the way and cited former coaches and colleagues Clyde Harding, Neil Titus, Billy Francis, Jim Henderson, Cecil Cherry, Bing Mitchell and Harold Robinson as just a few who have greatly impacted his life.
Kellum said he owes a tremendous debt to all the coaches that took time mold him when he was growing up.
“I was very fortunate,” Kellum said. “When I was growing up my father wasn’t around so I was very lucky to have these guys mentor me and bring me along and an influence me.”
One of those influences was Henderson, who mentored him in the wing-T offense, which would become the staple of Kellum-coached teams.
“Mr. Henderson was the guy who introduced me to the wing-T. It was the worst offense stat-wise that I have ever played in. I had been pretty successful as a veer-option quarterback, but the wing-T I fell in love with because there are so many things you can do with it,” Kellum said. “And if you look, at one point in North Carolina we were one of the only school’s running the wing-T at Chocowinity.”
The wing-T took full flight in the 2000s. After going 3-8 in 2001, the Seahawks dominated over the next four seasons as they went a combined 49-9, made state championship appearances in 2002 and 2004 and won three straight conference titles from 2003 to 2006.
After the 3-8 2001 season, Kellum guided his team to a 12-4 record as the Seahawks became state runners up. It was an effort that would earn statewide recognition as Kellum was crowned AP Coach of the Year.
That season would go down as one of his favorites, but not for the obvious reasons.
“The first state title game was the special, and not because it was the first, but because the first part of that year we were 1-3 and we booted a bunch of older guys off the team. We went in and cleaned house,” Kellum said. “We went out the next game and almost beat a Williamston team that was one of the best in the state and the kids came in and went, “We can do this.’ And from there, a bunch of geeky guys who were backup players who didn’t think they could do anything go on a tear and just take off.”
It’s moments like that, that drove Kellum to stay up late at night working on game plans and continueing to do so early the next morning.
“Winning when you don’t think you’re going to win … That’s exciting,” Kellum said. “To see kids get better, to see somebody go from a thug doing nothing to getting excited about a sport, that’s fun, that’s fun.”
While the wins are great, it’s watching a young, impressionable athlete turn into a responsible adult that really fuels Kellum.
“A lot of coaches worry about what the players think about them while they’re coaching,” Kellum said. “(The players) can’t be your friend. You can josh around with them once and while but they have to know where the line’s drawn. I don’t care what they think about me. These guys right here hate me. They absolutely hate me, right down to my son (Cole, the team’s starting quarterback). I’m the worst guy around. But, in five years those guys come back and say, ‘Thank you. We appreciate what you’ve done for me.’ That’s what makes it good.”
Kellum has had the fortune of coaching both his son’s as Cole is a senior at SHS, and Coby (24) played until 2006 six and his daughter Carmen (25) was a Seahawks’ cheerleader.
With Cole set to graduate at the end of the school year, Kellum said it’s the perfect time to go out and enjoy some time away from the sidelines.
“There’s other things I want to do,” Kellum said. “I want to go and see some races, I want to hike the Appalachian Trail and go see some kin. I want to go ­­­— and I haven’t done this since college ­— but I want to go see four major bowl games in one year.
“Stuff like that, you just can’t do it (while coaching) because you feel guilty about closing a weight room one day. I want to do some hunting and fishing without having to feel guilty about taking time away from watching game film.”
Kellum has spent the last 30-plus year’s looking through life as one seven-day prism at a time, so it come as no surprise he’s taking the same approach to his final home game.
“I view every game as my last game. You don’t know if you’re going to get put out tonight or if I’m going to fall dead on the sideline, and a player doesn’t know if he’s going to break his leg and never get to play again,” Kellum said. “We try to instill that into the kids. Even if you’re a freshman, play as if it’s your last game ever. That’s the way I have always looked at it.”