Published: 08:29 PM, Fri Dec 14, 2012
Douglas Byrd coach Russell Stone validated by spot on Shrine Bowl staff
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Russell Stone has served as head coach in almost 400 high school football games, including a state championship final.
But after 34 years as a head coach, today he'll fulfill a dream by being an assistant for the North Carolina squad in the 76th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
Stone, a Rowland native and coach at Douglas Byrd High, has collected 244 career wins at a variety of a schools, including five different ones in the Cape Fear region. But prior to this year had never been honored with a spot on the Shrine Bowl coaching roster.
"I had gotten to the point in my life where I could have ended my career and been a happy many without coaching in this game,'' Stone said. "But this kind of validates you as a coach and makes you feel like somebody is watching and maybe appreciates what you're doing.
"So, this means a great deal to me.''
The easy-going, jovial Stone has clearly been a player favorite during the week-long, two-a-day workouts leading up to today's 1 p.m. Shrine Bowl at Gibbs Stadium. He was constantly chatting and joking with players on and off the field.
On the field, Stone was given the task of coaching a talented stable of running backs, led by North Carolina commits T.J. Logan and Khris Francis.
"T.J., without a doubt, is the best one (running back) I've ever seen,'' Stone said. "He's just so explosive.
"Francis is a little understated. He makes subtle moves to get extra yards.
"We are very lucky to have so many talented backs.''
Stone hopes his backs can play a role in a North Carolina victory. The North Carolina team has won two of the last three Shrine Bowl games, including last year's 26-19 triumph.
"This is North Carolina-South Carolina, so you'd want to beat them if you were playing jacks or running for a peanut,'' Stone said. "This is a very intense thing.
"I think we have the better talent, so hopefully we can execute and do a good job.''
Now that he's had the experience of being an assistant with the Shrine Bowl, Stone said he wouldn't mind a stint as head coach in the future.
"It took me 34 years to get here as an assistant, so I figure I'll have to go about 20 more to be the head coach,'' he said. "So, I don't think it's going to happen. But I love to be the head coach at this. I would just love to be associated with this in any way, shape or form. For anybody who grew up in North Carolina, this is the pinnacle.''
Staff writer Sammy Batten can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3534.