Lake Charles, La. (KPLC) – Rusty Phelps is a coaching legend in Southwest Louisiana as he was the head coach at Jennings High School for nearly 30 years, serving as an assistant coach in 1994 and head coach since 1995 ., but after the 2022 season, Coach Phelps will try his hand at retirement.
“I’ve been here almost 30 years, that’s all I’ve done for a total of 35 years, and I felt like it was time to see what’s out there in football and just go and experience something else different,” Coach Phelps said of the decision-making process to retire.
Phelps’ son Peyton is currently on the coaching staff at Rayne High School, and one of the things Rusty Phelps is excited about is being able to attend his games, something he hasn’t been able to do due to the fact that he was supposed to practice on Friday night.
“In the last three years, I’ve never had the chance to see his team play because I’ve always been busy on Friday nights, and it’s a way to stay at the game a little bit, just talking to him and my other son is a college football fanatic, that it’s going to give us a chance to spend some time together and go see some college games and just catch up after a lot of years,” Coach Phelps said of one of the things he’s excited about in retirement.
One of the college games Phelps is excited to take his son Walker to is one 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 just as excited to see the Jacksonville Jaguars play because Travis Etienne, Trevor’s older brother, is a running back for the Jags, and Phelps didn’t get a chance to watch Etienne play in person because he was a Bulldog.
“You know, I just want to see it in person, not a video or a highlight reel or anything, 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 to see them both play live and not just hope to catch the highlight on Sunday or whatever and you know I’m excited about that and retirement will give me a chance to go and see they both play.”
Coach Phelps retiring from coaching the Bulldogs doesn’t mean he won’t be attending the games, Phelps and his family are members of the Jennings community and he said he will remain in Jennings and intends to attend the games, but The transition from the sidelines to the stands won’t be easy, according to Phelps.
“That’s probably going to be the hardest thing about the transition to being 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 for me and my family and I’m going to stay here, this place will always hold a special place in my heart for us and for me, and you know I’m just excited to see what the next two weeks bring and I’m just enjoying the next two weeks.”
Coach Phelps has two more games on the sidelines before he becomes a Jennings fan, but he says he doesn’t want to be the center of attention, saying he’s had nearly three decades of senior nights where it’s all about the players who are have 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 it openly and publicly, this is our seniors’ last game and I don’t want the focus to be on that, I want it to be on those seniors that are in that locker room because they’ve contributed so much to this football program over the years four years old and this is their night, this is a night where we can recognize their families and the senior players who have worked so hard to get to this point, so this is an opportunity for us to recognize them, and that it’s their night and I don’t want to take that away from them,” coach Phelps said.
Additionally, when asked if he has any regrets during his nearly 30-year career as the Bulldogs’ head coach, this is what Coach Phelps had to say:
“None, and I say that from the bottom of my heart, because no, 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 to be in this community when that thing spins and there’s nothing like it on Friday night Jerry Simmons Stadium I’m just the lucky guy who got more than 300 opportunities to do it and you can take half of them and that’s how many games we have to play there and that’s just the best place for a friday night.”
Well, Coach Phelps will get one last opportunity to walk the sidelines at Jerry Simmons Stadium as the Bulldogs close out their 2022 season at home next week against St. Louis Catholic, following a road game this week against Lake Charles College Prep.
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