02/15/14 — Whisenhunt: Football icon is honorary member of NCFCA

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Whisenhunt: Football icon is honorary member of NCFCA

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on February 15, 2014 11:13 PM



One conversation altered Gerald Whisenhunt's life forever and set off a Hall of Fame coaching career that included 17 stops at different schools along the way.

The chat happened with former American Legion baseball teammate Jim McRee and reshaped Whisenhunt's life in a way he never thought possible.

After graduation, Whisenhunt worked for two years in a hosiery mill in his hometown of Newton. McRee convinced Whisenhunt to play baseball at Catawba and after a successful four-year career on the diamond, Whisenhunt signed with the Houston Colt .45's. He played one summer with Salisbury of the Western Carolina League.

Whisenhunt's baseball career ended when he accepted an assistant football coaching position at Goldsboro High School in 1960.

"Had it not been for that conversation with Jim I would probably still be in Newton working at a hosiery mill and I never would have gone into coaching," Whisenhunt said. "I knew my days of playing (baseball) were coming to an end, and I figured maybe coaching would take some of that lost feeling out of it."

Five-plus decades later, Whisenhunt earned honorary membership into the N.C. Football Coaches Association last weekend in Greensboro. The recognition came two weeks after he was recognized during the N.C. High School Athletic Association 100 Administrators to Remember ceremony.

"To be honest, I don't think any coach goes into coaching because they want to a win an award at the end," said Whisenhunt, who inducted into the GHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987.

"I know I didn't. If they come, they come, if they don't, they don't. It's not something you go out and plan."

Whisenhunt spent 26 seasons at Goldsboro, including 21 as head football coach. He compiled a 147-72-3 record, won five conference championships and made eight state playoff appearances.

He also coached track, wrestling, JV and varsity baseball. Goldsboro won a pair of state championships in 1966 and 1974 in wrestling.

"I was at Goldsboro and I never thought I would leave," Whisenhunt said. "I've probably been the most lucky and blessed coach there is because especially in my years at Goldsboro High School, I had so many great athletes. I just happened to come along at the right time and the right place.

"Not only were they great athletes, but they were also great human beings."

Whisenhunt spent time as a head football coach at Eastern Wayne (1986-1992), Enloe (1992-1996), Southern Wayne (1996-1997), South Lenoir (1997-1999) and South Johnston (1999-2000).

His love for football remains strong and he continues to work as a volunteer coach. Whisenhunt has served on the staffs at Spring Creek, North Lenoir and most recently, Southern Wayne.

A strong bond with the players lures Whisenhunt to the sidelines each fall.

"Coaching is just in me," said Whisenhunt, a cancer survivor and an avid runner. "I discovered that I really love coaching. We always talk about the problems and the sorry kids, but there's so many really great kids. A lot of people have said I've helped a lot of young men. I've kind of felt like it's the other way around.

"I think they've helped me be a better person. Sometimes us coaches have a tendency to get down when things aren't going good. It's been my experience that the players come in and they're all fired up and ready to go and they get you going again."

Whisenhunt is a member of the Catawba College Sports Hall of Fame. He served as head coach for North Carolina in the 1974 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.