Mark Bray is synonymous with Mississippi football. For the first time in a long time next season, the state’s sidelines will be without him on Friday nights.
The Aberdeen head coach and Vardaman coaching legend announced his retirement Thursday night.
“I’ll miss being around the kids on Friday night. There’s nothing like that,” Bray said. “The practices, I enjoyed that, too.”
Bray spent 23 years at Vardaman and made 17 consecutive playoff appearances, when making the playoffs was difficult, fewer teams in tough divisions. Those teams went to four North finals.
Bray took over in Aberdeen in 2012. His overall record is 215-124.
He admittedly is burned out by the non-coaching duties and says after a year, he is open to the possibility of returning somewhere strictly as a head coach.
Bray has coached his share of big-time players, including one still playing, Odie Armstrong with the AFL’s San Jose SaberCats.
Armstrong, the fifth leading career rusher in AFL history, looks back fondly on a moment he and Bray shared after beating Weir with 3 seconds left in the second round of the playoffs.
“The moment we shared on the field, it was more than football,” Armstrong said. “The moment we shared hugging, close to tears, it was an amazing feeling I’ll never forget and still remember 14 years later.”
And in big-time games. He leaves Aberdeen 3-0 against Monroe County-rival Amory. At Vardaman, Calhoun City was the yearly rival.
“The Calhoun City games, the Amory games, those type games, they’ll probably stand out more than anything,” Bray said.
Bray was all All-American player at Itawamba CC and has been inducted into the ICC and MACJC Hall of Fame.