Coach Jeff Highfill will open his 38th preseason football camp at William Byrd High School next week and it will be his last. Highfill has informed Byrd principal Tammy Newcomb that he’ll be retiring after this season.
Football practice will be held from 4-7 pm beginning Thursday, July 26. There will be a mandatory parents’ meeting in the cafeteria following Thursday’s practice. The Terriers will go Thursday and Friday of next week, take off for the weekend, then go Monday through Wednesday, July 31 to August 1, from 4-7 pm before putting on the pads two weeks from today, on August 2nd.
It will be the last go-round for Highfill, who started coaching the team when he was 28. Jeff is now 66 and the “Dean of Roanoke Valley coaches” is ready to step back.
“I’m ready to back off and you don’t want to ever have your lead dog back off,” he said. “You don’t see many 70 year old coaches in high school football.”
While Highfill qualifies for social security, he’s still in excellent shape. He made a point of the fact that he’s going out in good health and on his own terms.
“It’s my call,” he said. “I haven’t had any pressure. We’ve had two straight 9-1 seasons and everything’s been great, it’s just time to step aside and give someone else a chance.”
This will be Jeff’s 87th season as a high school coach, including 81 as a head coach. It will be his 40th season as a head football coach, with two at Floyd County followed by 38 at Byrd.
He was Byrd’s first soccer coach and led the team for 35 years before retiring two years ago. He’s also served as a head tennis and girls’ basketball coach at Franklin County over a 45 year career.
“It’s just time to back off,” he said. “Jeff(son and former Byrd quarterback) and I talked about it over Christmas. He was somewhat surprised when I brought it up, but I wanted to go out on my terms. I’ve seen a few others stick around a little too long and I didn’t want that to happen. We have a good senior class and I’ll give it everything I have this season before stepping away. That’s the only way I know how to coach and it wouldn’t be fair to the kids if I wasn’t giving it my all. I’m going to work as hard, or harder, than ever before.”
Highfill informed his staff of his decision during the summer.
“I didn’t want it to hit the coaches cold,” he said. “Some of them have been with us a long time and I wanted them to hear it first.”
Jeff indicated he’ll be available for advice if asked, but he’s not pushing anyone to be his replacement and he’s not going to meddle in the team after this season.
“I’d like to be like coach (Paul) Barnard,” he said. “I’ll be there if they need help, but for the most part I’m going to play some golf and do some fishing.
“I was lucky. I was able to work with some great kids and I worked for and with some great people. It’s been a blast, but it’s time to move on.”