Ray Perkins stepping down at Jones JC

Ray Perkins, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer who this fall coached Jones County Junior College to the state championship game at age 72, has resigned.

Perkins — who as a player caught passes from Joe Namath and John Unitas, and as a coach succeeded Bear Bryant at Alabama and also coached the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Bucs — made national headlines for coming out of retirement to coach the Ellisville-based junior college for the past two seasons.

“I’m grateful to the Jones administration for giving me the opportunity,” Perkins said. “I’m grateful to my coaching staff for their hard work and for my players for all the hard work they put it. I’ve tried to teach these players some life lessons and make them better people. They have bought in entirely and for that I am thankful.”

Jones was 14-5 in Perkins’ two seasons, owning a share of the South Division title in 2012 and winning it in 2013. The Petal native, who starred for Bryant at Alabama and for the Baltimore Colts in the NFL, said his decision to resign had nothing to do with his health.

“I feel great,” he said.

Jones president Jesse Smith said Perkins decision caught him off guard.

“Our two years with Ray Perkins have been incredibly rewarding,” Smith said. “He was in it for all the right reasons. He was a great fit for us and did just an incredible job. He wasn’t in it for the money; he was in it to give back to the game,

“After talking to him, I think he decided to step down at this time because of his two young girls, whom he really loves. He wants to spend time with them, and I really believe that is what drove his decision.”

Smith said he hopes to have a new coach in place by Jan. 15 when the Jones board of trustees has its next regular meeting. Perkins’ last day on the job is Dec. 31.

“Ray leaves the program in great shape,” Smith said. “We’re in good shape recruiting. We expect a smooth transition.”

Smith hired Perkins at age 70, no doubt raising eyebrows.

“I’ve never been scared of age, either young or old,” Smith said. “WIth Ray, 70 was just a number. Let me put it this way, he had should surgery one morning this season and was at practice that afternoon. Some people, it would kept out for a week or even two. He was on the job that day. When you define the word tough, you start with Ray Perkins.”

Perkins, who was born in Mount Olive and grew up in Petal, was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

He was a consensus All-American receiver for Alabama in 1996 when Bryant called him “our best ballplayer. If we played him on defense, he would be our best defensive player, too.”

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Rick Cleveland’s column on Ray Perkins this past October.

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