Sports Person of the Week - Rusty Phelps
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Rusty Phelps is a coaching legend in Southwest Louisiana as he’s been the head coach at Jennings High School for nearly 30 years as he was an assistant coach in 1994, and the head coach beginning in 1995, but following the 2022 season, coach Phelps will try his hand at retirement.
“I’ve been here for close to 30 years, this is all I’ve done for basically 35 years, and I felt like it was time to see what’s on the outside of football, and just kind of go, and experience some other different things” said coach Phelps on the decision process to retire.
Phelps’ son Peyton is currently on the staff at Rayne High School as a coach, and one of the things Rusty Phelps is excited for, is the ability to attend his games, something he hasn’t been able to do, due to the fact that he too has had to coach on Friday nights.
“Over the past three years I’ve never had the chance to see his team play, because I was always busy on Friday night, and this is a way for me to stay around the game a little bit in just talking to him and my other son is a college football fanatic, this will give us a chance to spend some time together, and go and see some college games, and just kind of catching up over a lot of years” said coach Phelps on one of the things he is excited about for retirement.
One of the college games Phelps is excited to take in with his son Walker, is a game involving the Florida Gators as his former player, running back Trevor Etienne, plays for the Gators. Phelps mentioned that Gainesville is one of the top destinations on his list to take in a game, but he’s equally excited to see the Jacksonville Jaguars play as Travis Etienne, Trevor’s older brother, is a running back for the Jags, and Phelps hasn’t had the chance to watch Etienne in person for a game, since he was a Bulldog.
“You know, I just want to see it in person, and not a video clip, or a highlight or something like that, because I’ve always said, it’s pretty special when a guy like Kirk Herbstreit says your name on national television, so I just want to go and see them both play live, and not just hoping to catch a highlight on Sundays or whatever, and you know I’m excited about that, and retiring will give me the chance to hopefully go and see both of them play.”
Just because coach Phelps is retiring from coaching the Bulldogs, does not mean he won’t attend the games, Phelps and his family are members of the Jennings community, and he said he will remain in Jennings, and has the intention of taking in games, but the transition from the sidelines to the bleachers won’t be easy according to Phelps.
“That’s probably going to be the hardest thing to transition to becoming a fan, I mean for 30 years, 29 or 30 years, I’ve walked up and down that sideline, it’s a very special place to me, my family and I are going to remain here, this place is always going to hold a special place in my heart for us, and for me, and you know I’m just excited to see what these next two weeks will bring, and just enjoying these next two weeks.”
Coach Phelps has two more games on the sidelines before becoming a fan of Jennings, but he says he doesn’t want to be the center of attention, he said he’s had nearly three decades of senior nights where it was all about the players who had given their time and effort to Jennings High School, and there’s no reason that shouldn’t be the same for his final senior class.
“I’ve said this openly, and publicly, this is our seniors’ last game, and I do not want the attention to be about this, I want it to be about those seniors that are in that locker room because they’ve contributed so much to this football program for four years, and that’s their night, that’s the night we get to recognize their families, and the senior players who have worked so hard to get to this point, so it’s an opportunity for us to recognize them, and that’s their night, and I do not want to take that away from them” said coach Phelps.
Additionally, when asked if he had any regrets over the course of his nearly 30-year career as the head coach of the Bulldogs, here is what coach Phelps had to say:
“Not one, and I say that from the heart, because I don’t, you know, I mean, we’ve had some tough losses over the years, but we’ve had some great wins over the years, and you know, it’s just great being in this community when this thing is rolling and there’s nothing like it on Friday night, Jerry Simmons Stadium, I’m just the lucky one who got 300 plus opportunities to do it so, and you could take half of them, and that’s how many games we got to play over there, and it’s just the best place on Friday night to be.”
Well coach Phelps will get one final opportunity to roam the sidelines of Jerry Simmons Stadium as the Bulldogs wrap up their 2022 season at home next week against St. Louis Catholic, after an away game this week against Lake Charles College Prep.
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