Road less traveled

Opponents of the Riverside Bulldogs football team over the past five years have noticed a shift in the climate and culture of the program. Prior to that time, district foes would probably quietly count a game against them as a win once schedules were revealed. Then, along came a head coach who brought grit, tenacity, fun and determination to Avon. “My mentality has always been, ‘no heart, no chance,” said Bulldogs head coach Quintarus McCray. “When I came to Riverside, I had to change the morale. I’m a blue-collar type of guy and believe in competing, working hard and learning from even the worst experiences.”

People who are close to McCray refer to him as “Coach Big.” His size fits the name, but it also describes his heart, commitment and fun-loving nature. McCray’s philosophy for coaching is a direct reflection of his life experiences. His journey can be described as an unusual mix of the popular rap megastar, Drake and poet, Robert Frost. McCray started from the bottom and took the road less traveled. “Back in 2004, when I graduated from UAPB, John Danley was the head football coach at Coleman Middle School,” he said. “He called me and told me that he had a job for me as a caregiver.”

For a young man with a college degree and several years of playing the sport that he loved, this was far from the type of position he probably had in mind. Caregivers provide supervision and attention to children with severe and profound learning issues as well as personal care needs. But, this experience began to solidify his desire to be an educator and continue imparting wisdom to children. “During that time, I started working on my teacher certification,” McCray recalled. “I went on to Greenville High School where I was a coordinator under eight different head coaches.”

The lack of stability at the time in the head coaching ranks would have been enough to make some reconsider the professional. But, McCray took a totally opposite view. “I had to learn both offense and defense because of the ongoing changes in the head coaching position,” he said. “But it was a blessing in disguise because any head coach needs to know both sides of the ball to be effective.”

This well-rounded approach to coaching got the Bulldog’s noticed in just McCray’s second year of head coaching. St. Andrews beat Riverside 13-12, but the opposing coach noticed how structured the Bulldogs’ play calling and adjustments had become. “The coach at St. Andrews said that all of our concepts were very good and that all I needed was a few more athletes making plays,” McCray added.

Like all kids who came up playing football in the Greenville School District, McCray always entertained dreams of being the head man for the Hornets. But as fate would have it, this man of Alpha Phi Alpha would always run into principal Donald Coleman at his part time job. “Mr. Coleman told me that the O’Bannon job would be opening up and that I should apply,” McCray said. “When the selection was made at O’Bannon, he suggested Riverside, and this is where I’ve been since then.”

“This is my way of giving back,” he continued. “I’ve played for coaches who’ve care and for those who didn’t care. I want to be one who cares, and I do this for the kids.”