For over forty years he had lived this great and full life as a football coach. Tough, professional in every way, emotional and close to his players. The records say that Jimmy Perry was always a winner. But his life was much more than that. He and his wife Judy of 43 years had children Jana and Danny and three grandchildren. It seemed as if he had done everything in his profession.
Jimmy started out as the great young assistant in a Montgomery football dynasty and worked up to the head coaching position. He had worked on the staff at Auburn University, and been a successful head coach at two more high schools. Jimmy Perry had been coach of the year multiple times. His strong Christian faith had allowed him to serve the Methodist Church in the communities in which he lived in many different ways. He was an accomplished speaker and an avid fisherman. Jimmy Perry had survived heart surgery, a kidney transplant and cancer and just kept coaching. He had checked off everything you can do in a coaching career….except one thing.
A 1975 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School, Jimmy attended Auburn University and took his first coaching job as an assistant at Trinity Presbyterian. He moved to his alma mater Robert E. Lee in 1982 and two years later, became a valued assistant under new head coach Spence McCracken. Jimmy did a little bit of everything at Lee, eventually becoming offensive coordinator as the Generals became one of the great football powers in the state. Lee would win 10 or more games in 8 of 9 seasons, as well as three state championships and multiple rankings in the top 25 nationally. When Coach McCracken left in 1995, Jimmy Perry was the obvious choice as the new head coach.
Lee continued their winning ways but after reaching the state finals in 1999, Coach Perry accepted the opportunity to join the staff of Tommy Turberville at Auburn University. He would serve first as Director of High School Relations and then as Director of Football Operations through the 2008 season. In March of 2009, he accepted the head coaching position at St. Paul’s School in Mobile. He would coach the Saints for three seasons, winning 27 games with back to back 10 win campaigns.
Montgomery called him back in 2012 and he accepted the job as Head Football Coach and Dean of Students at St. James School. He would lead the Trojans to unprecedented success on the gridiron. As he had done at all of his coaching stops, Coach Perry invested time in his players and became an integral part of the St. James community.
St. James Head of School Larry McLemore said, “we are grateful for the lasting impact Coach Perry has made
on our students and all of St. James School. He has invested countless hours in his athletes, shaping their character through lessons on and off the field and leading by example. His legacy as a football coach is incredible, and his values and heart for our students are the two things that stand out most of all.”
By the 2022 season, he had already been elected to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. Jimmy knew it was about time for him to call it a career so that he could spend more time with his family. He had lived this full coaching life that included grateful players, and many friends both in and out of the coaching profession. The impact of his coaching life is immeasurable.
Former player and assistant coach Aubrey Blackwell has become a successful head coach himself.
“Coach Perry had a passion and love for each of us,” he says. “To play for Coach Perry was to know high expectations, to see a man walk daily with the Lord, and to help us chase the gifts that God gave us.”
Neal Posey, who coached with Jimmy at St. James and then took over as head coach is thankful for their time together. “From mentoring me as a young coach, to navigating the start of marriage and family, he has made such an impact and served as a role model for me and so many others.”
But there was one more item he needed to get done to complete this life in coaching.
On Thursday, December 1st, 2022, the St.James Trojans defeated Piedmont 45-28 at Jordan Hare Stadium in Auburn to become the 2022 3A State Football Champions. It was Coach Perry’s first state title as a head coach. He was everyone’s Coach of the Year.
When he retired several weeks later, Coach Perry expressed his feelings. “It’s been a lot of fun”, he said. “I’ve coached a lot of great players, worked with a lot of great coaches along the way. I’m very replaceable as a head coach, but I’m not replaceable as a husband to my wife, a father to my grandchildren and a grandfather to my grandchildren.”
A storybook ending for a full life in coaching.
The Alabama Football Coaches Association is proud to present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Coach Jimmy Perry.