His Southern drawl mixed homespun humor with life lessons. That was the idea. Get their attention, then find some teachable moments. When Jerry Durnin spoke, his players listened.
Durnin, the most successful football coach in King High School history (101-62 record), had that kind of influence. When Durnin died Feb. 6 at age 84, the memories flowed for former Lions and opposing coaches, all of whom remembered him as one of Hillsborough County's football greats.
"He was like a father figure, no question," said former King quarterback Derrick Gaines, the new principal at Van Buren Middle School.
In 1981, Gaines was captain of the 10-0 Lions, still the best team in King history. As that regular season unfolded, King players thought they were doing just enough to win. Gaines spoke up.
"I said, 'Coach D, all the guys want me to ask you a question,' " Gaines said. "We felt like we were winning 21-0 when we could easily be winning 46-0. We should be blowing these teams out, just embarrassing them.
"He just said, 'I understand that we could be doing that. But these other coaches, they're my friends. We don't need to be running it up on them. The cycle always changes. It's not always going to be your year.' "
Gaines just shrugged.
A decade later, when Gaines became a coach, he understood.
Durnin, a native of Amite, La., and graduate of Mississippi State University, was King's head coach from 1971-86.
Durnin is survived by his wife, Bobbye; daughters Debra Peabody and Vicki Edmonds; and two grandchildren, Derek and Jennifer.