Richard Grissom has never been one to wax poetic … about anything.
So when he decided he was going to end his brilliant career as Elkin High School's football coach, the reasons he gave -- not surprisingly -- were simple and shot straight from the hip.
"I guess enough is enough sometimes," said Grissom, 59. "I am not getting any younger."
Grissom, a native of Elkin and a standout player at Elkin High in the 1960s, ended a 34-year coaching career that started in 1974 when he recently told school administrators of his plans.
He has been the coach at Elkin since 1987, and he captured lightning in a bottle late in his career when he guided the Buckin' Elks to four state titles in five seasons between 2002 and 2006.
"The best way I can describe him, he is a football coach," said Scott Carter, the athletics director and a longtime assistant football coach at rival Starmount. "He takes what he's got, he goes and plays and competes. If he wins he shakes your hand. If you beat him, he shakes your hand.
"He's an old-school coach and there just aren't many of his kind left. Elkin's always going to have a good football program, but it's going to look a lot different across that sideline next year."
Tony Duncan, Elkin's AD and an assistant coach under Grissom for 23 years, said that there are no current teaching positions open at the school, and it's possible that Grissom's replacement will come from the current staff.
But more than anything, right now, Duncan is dealing with a loss.
"You are losing a friend more than anything, losing a colleague but also a close friend, and that's always difficult when you do that," Duncan said. "I don't want to sound selfish. I want him to be happy. The selfish side of me wants him to be around forever, until I retire.
"I think he has put the football program on the map. When you mention football powerhouses in the state, you think about Richard Grissom before you think about Elkin football. He is the mainstay."
Grissom graduated from Elkin in 1969 and was a defensive end at North Carolina in 1969 and 1970. After letting his grades slip, he transferred to Gardner-Webb, where he completed his degree and a football career that landed him in the school's athletics hall of fame.
He took his first head-coaching job at Wilkes Central in 1976. He left Wilkes Central to become the defensive coordinator at Rutherfordton-Spindale Central, and he was the head coach there from 1984 to 1986 before going to Elkin.
Grissom, a physical-education teacher, retired from fulltime teaching in 2004, sat out six months and returned as a part-time teacher in 2005. He said not being able to be at school all day was a detriment to the program.
"I think they need a fulltime coach," Grissom said. "I appreciate the fact that they wanted me to stay, but I can't operate that way. I didn't feel like I was doing a good job by not being there, and I didn't want to come out of retirement. That was the biggest thing."
Grissom, an avid outdoorsman, said he plans to use his newfound freedom to do more bird hunting and golfing, and also to take care of a tract of land he purchased in the mountains. He said that his wife, Cathy, was planning to retire in a couple of years and that they have plans. He also said he wanted to go out West and hunt with his brother, Bud.
"It's unique," Grissom said. "I have been real lucky. I have been a big kid for 59 years and had a great time. I will have something else to do. I have good time doing whatever I do so I will be fine."
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