Tom McMurray figured out he’s been part of 40-plus years of two-a-day football practices.
That will change when August rolls around.
The longtime Alma assistant, who has coached football and track since joining the Airedales’ staff in 1982, is retiring from coaching at the end of the school year. A 1974 Van Buren graduate, the 57-year-old McMurray said he’ll miss the relationships he’s formed with players.
“I think that’s probably one of the things I’ll miss the most,” McMurray said. “That daily interaction with those athletes will probably be one of the biggest things I’ll miss. We’ve had some kids here who have worked extremely hard and made names for themselves over the years. I’m very proud of that.”
McMurray joined former coach Frank Vines’ staff in the 1982. His Alma boys track teams won nine conference championships and three straight titles. He was also part of Vines’ state championship football teams in 1997-98.
McMurray had two state track runnerup finishes, and his 1997 Airedalettes’ track squad also finished second at the state meet.
“He’s been part of football state championships, track state championship and multiple conference championships,” Alma athletics director Dr. Mike McSpadden said. “But his legacy is establishing relationships with players. There’s never a player that played for Tom that didn’t know Tom loved him.”
Longtime Alma assistant Len Hall will succeed McMurray as the team’s track coach.
“I wanted to make sure our football program was solid, and with coach (Doug) Loughridge coming in, we’re in good shape,” said McMurray. “I wanted to make sure the program was going to be good shape, and I couldn’t leave it in better hands than with coach Hall.
“That made it a lot easier.”
“When I first started calling around to ask about the (Alma) job, people said you better call and talk to coach Mac,” Loughridge said. “It was a no-brainer that I made him my assistant head coach. He has a way with kids where he gets the most out of them.”
Longtime Alma assistant coach David Hale said McMurry is “the epitome of what a coach might be.”
“His demeanor and integrity, those are the two things the kids picked up on,” Hale said.
“Tom is somebody we’ve grown up around and been fortunate to work with,” Alma boys basketball coach Stan Flenor said. “I started coaching here in 1984 and one of the first things he taught me was how to tape ankles. We’re going to miss his professionalism; it’s going to be a big void for us.”
Although best known for his fluid offensive lines, McMurray says he’ll always be fond of the kickers he worked with, many of whom kicked the Airedales into state championship games.
“I can remember some big kicks over the years; Billy McCormick hit a big one to put us into the state finals in ‘92,” said McMurray. “Dustin Limbocker, over at Wynne, had a big kick for us, and Sam Fincher had a big field goal one night down in Magnolia.
“There are a lot of great memories from football and track.”
McMurray will remain on campus as a history teacher.