Legendary football manager Joe Jaggers dies aged 81 | Sports

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One of the most successful coaches in Kentucky high school football history died Sunday night.

Joe Jaggers, a 1993 Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame inductee who spent 33 years as a head coach and spent much of that time coaching in Hardin County, was 81.

His grandson, Josh Jaggers, said he died of a heart attack. He has also battled dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in recent years.

Jaggers, who coached My Old Kentucky Home, Nelson County, Trigg County, Fort Knox and North Hardin football programs, was a five-time state champion and finished with a 292-105-3 record. Three of the five state championships came during a 14-year tenure as head coach at Fort Knox from the 1977 season through the 1990 season.

“It’s hard to explain how good a coach Joe Jaggers was. I’ve always said that when I coached with him and even after I stopped coaching with him, if it was a third try and we needed a play to get a first down, it seemed like 90% of the time he was calling something and it would give us what we needed,” said the former sporting director and defensive coordinator of Fort Knox, Gary Thompson. “I think his greatest attribute was his ability, on offense, to call plays and call good plays. His other asset as a coach and as a leader was that he placed the kids in the position that was best for the team… It’s pretty obvious from his record and what he did there at Fort Knox.

Jaggers started playing football at the age of 10 while growing up in Princeton. After graduating from Western Kentucky University after an outstanding career as a running back, Jaggers began his career as an assistant coach at My Old Kentucky Home in 1960. Three years later he was named coach -head of My Old Kentucky Home, where he compiled an 18-11-2 record.

He moved to Nelson County in 1969, where he posted a 12-8-1 record in two seasons before taking the job at Trigg County. Jaggers went 46-25 overall and won Class A state titles in 1971 and 1972 at Trigg.

In 1977, he arrived at Fort Knox. Thompson, who was Fort Knox’s athletic director from 1974 to 2004, remembers putting Jaggers in the job as the start of something special.

“Bob Burrow was our manager then. … Mr. Burrow said I think we can get Joe Jaggers. I said ‘God, if you can get Joe Jaggers, we better try to get him’ “Thompson said. “We got it and it’s the biggest thing that’s happened to Fort Knox for the football program, hiring Joe Jaggers as the head coach. He flipped the program. »

Jaggers led the Eagles to a 143-33 record, winning Class 2A state championships in 1983, 1988 and 1990. His 1984 team lost to Newport Central Catholic in what would ultimately be Jaggers’ only loss for the state title.

“It was fun, it was awesome. I always said the place to be on Friday nights was Fort Knox High School when Joe Jaggers was coaching there,” said Thompson, who was a member. of the Jaggers coaching staff for the 1983 State Title. it was just amazing what Fort Knox did there during his years as the head coach.

In addition to success on the field, the culture Jaggers built around the program in practice and outside of the games themselves was equally important to many of his Fort Knox players.

“I came to Fort Knox before my sophomore year in the summer of 1982. Football practice had already started, so I was late to the team. As army kids who are constantly on the move, some of us have found our stability and extended family through sports. Coach Jaggers wasted no time in welcoming me into the family. I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to be part of my teammates and the wonderful coaching staff at Fort Knox High School,” said the KHSAA assistant commissioner and former running back for Fort Knox and University of Kentucky, Darren Bilberry. “….Practice was also a time of pranks, laughter, horseplay and male bonding under the watchful eye of Coach Jaggers and his staff who allowed our individual personalities to shine while turning us into the men we were meant to be.”

Jaggers left Fort Knox after the 1990 season to serve as head coach at North Hardin beginning in 1991. What followed was an eight-year run with the Trojans in which Jaggers amassed a record 77-23 with trips to the state semifinals in the 1991. and 1993 seasons.

Among his coaching staff at North Hardin was James Webb, who had played for the Jaggers at Fort Knox and was a member of the state runner-up Eagles team in 1984.

“As someone who had never played football in high school, he gave me a chance to get out and play and I became an important part of the defense, I was a starter and we competed again at the state championship game,” Webb said.

Their relationship changed from a player-manager relationship to a managerial relationship when Jaggers approached Webb to offer him a position on his team with the Trojans.

“I’m in Hardin County because he called me my senior year in college and said, ‘I’m leaving Fort Knox to come to North Hardin. I know you are into education and physical education and want to be a coach. He offered me a job while I was still in college,” Webb said. “I’m in Hardin County, I’m retired now and it’s thanks to him.”

Joe Stockton, who played at North Hardin under Jaggers in the early 1990s, recalled his former high school coach as tough but fair to all of his players.

“He made me work for everything I got. I came to North Hardin with a few small accolades since I was from Hart County and people who knew me growing up in Glasgow, but when I came to North Hardin I had to earn everything I achieved out there on the football field,” Stockton says. “I always thought he was fair and I thought it was really important that we kept that relationship way beyond me playing for him and me playing sports. When my sports career ended , we remained friends.

Jaggers retired from coaching after the 1998 season at age 58.

At the time of his retirement, Jaggers was Kentucky’s all-time winningest high school coach. He currently ranks 12th in most wins in state football history.

Even in retirement, his legacy lived on in the careers of the players and coaches he influenced over the years.

“He pushed me. Just to watch him work, it was all football with him. Watching him dissect the game, dissect an opponent, the things he made me do that I really didn’t like and understand why I was doing it then, it’s like being a parent,” said Webb, now retired from a busy career as a North Hardin athletics coach. “You appreciate it more getting me to break down a movie, getting me cross state across the state to go scout a crew I was young, I was 23 or 24 and I was a freshman or sophomore in college and I’m driving around Henderson county and I don’t know anybody there, but I gotta break this team down. The meticulous little things like that, which I was kind of frustrated about because I had to do it myself, have made me a better coach,” Webb said. “…Obviously that’s been through my life in track and field. little things.”

Stockton, who had a storied career in football and track and field at North Hardin and continued to play both sports in western Kentucky, also coached high school and college football and track and field and is currently the boys’ athletics coach at John Hardin High School.

“His influence on me started when I was in eighth grade at Glasgow Middle School. His Fort Knox team used to come to Glasgow and it was a big game. Fort Knox of course beat us and I remember just reading an article about him and I was lucky enough to be a ballboy for one of the games I remember when we were shaking hands I walked on the court and I remember for slapping his hand. That was my first meeting with him, and then about two years later he ended up being my coach,” Stockton said.

“Just the way people were talking about him, he was bigger than football,” he added. “He was one of the football gods of Kentucky high school football with all of his championships…”

Through the impact he had on his former players and assistant coaches as well as his success on the pitch, Jaggers leaves behind a legacy that Thompson believes few will ever challenge.

“He has to be considered one of the greatest football coaches that has ever been in the state of Kentucky,” Thompson said. “It’s hard to put into words how much he meant to football at Fort Knox High School.”

Matt Tyson can be reached at 270-505-1425 or [email protected]

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