Louisville High School head coach Tyrone Shorter leaps into the air, then runs wildly out to the hash marks pumping his fist and yelling. With 36 seconds left on the clock, Jaiden Triplett had just scrambled his way into the end zone for a two-point conversion that gave the Wildcats a one-point lead after having trailed all of the second half. A few plays later Joshua Nun intercepts a Poplarville pass sealing the deal, but the celebration is already in full swing on the Wildcat sidelines. Shorter is on his knees with emotion. Hugs, Gatorade showers, and pictures drown out the sound of the final buzzer. As cowbells rang out across the Louisville bleachers, he is pulled to his feet and embraced by a player. The Louisville Wildcats have just earned their tenth state football title and first under Shorter.
Shorter’s is an interesting and slightly complex story. He arrived in Macon during the summer of 1998 to visit his mother. While there, he and his stepfather bumped into M.C. Miller, then head football coach at Noxubee County High. Miller remembered the Port Gibson standout from his high school playing days and offered him a job on the spot. Shorter reluctantly accepted with the intention of spending only one year there.
“He talked me into coming to Noxubee because I wasn’t coming at first, but I had the chance to spend some time with my mom and I had been separated from her since I was about seventh grade,” Shorter said. “I planned on being there for one year, one season.”
Miller changed that. He saw something in the young coach and took him under his wing. Shorter spent his first 11 years as secondary coach. He then moved up to take the role of defensive coordinator where he spent six years while serving as assistant head coach for four. Miller and staff led the Tigers to the school’s first state football title in 2008. The time on the sidelines with Miller groomed Shorter for his head coaching career.
“I learned a lot from Coach Miller,” Shorter said. “I learned how to be a head coach and the dos and the don’ts. I watched his every move. I was young, energetic, and knew I had a passion for coaching.”
When Miller left Noxubee in 2009, returning home to Louisville High School to become the Wildcats head coach, Shorter’s ascension to Noxubee’s top spot was a solid choice. Under his leadership, the Tigers were known for unbendable defense and powerful offense. Shorter, who spent two seasons at Hinds Community College before finishing at Austin Peay State University, harnessed his style from his time on the sidelines beside Miller and as a player. He also had some professional football experience to add having spent time with the San Diego Chargers football association and Canada’s Edmonton Eskimos.
“I implemented a lot of things (Coach Miller) did and also did a lot of things that I remembered from my high school coach and all my college coaches. All of those guys were mentors for me,” Shorter said.
When he took the reins of his first football team, he had a wealth of knowledge and experience but most importantly he had a deep love for the game.
“My passion comes from the way that I played the game,” Shorter said. “I did it the right way and I want my kids to do it the right way so I approached it as a coach doing it the right way. I had a vision of how I wanted my program to be and it worked.”
To say that “it worked” is slightly an understatement. he is 36-6 in playoff game appearances and 125-34 as a head coach. Under his guidance, Noxubee won four state titles and a number of district and North State championships.
However, after 20 years at Noxubee County, Shorter decided to cross the county line and become head coach of his former rival, Louisville High School. When he arrived, his new coach’s office still held the remnants of its previous owner, who Shorter would again follow in the footsteps of – M.C. Miller.
“It was an honor but also it was a lot of pressure,” Shorter said. “There were big shoes to fill, but I felt like it was the right opportunity.”
And much like the first time, Shorter had little problem filling those shoes. In his first year with the program, the team went 11-3 and earned a district championship. This year with nine new starters on offense, the Wildcats went 13-1 en route to the title game that ended with as much flair as any fan could ask for.
Late in the fourth quarter quarterback Jace Hudspeth connected on fourth down to keep the Wildcats drive alive. Another completion pulled the Wildcats within scoring range. One more earned them a touchdown. Shorter glanced at the clock and his team trailed 14-13. He had a decision to make. A made field goal would tie the game, but a completed two-point conversion would give them the lead. Shorter asked his assistant coaches for their thoughts and the headsets fell silent. He looked to his kicker who sheepishly glanced away. Shorter decided to lay it all on the line.
“I was feeling good because our offense was clicking at the time. We had an 80-yard drive going,” said Shorter. “I trusted our kids. Our offense had been doing a great job all game and I just love those guys and trusted them.”
Shorter’s love and trust of his team extend far beyond a late quarter rally and gutsy final play to win it all. It is part of a football program that is about much more than stat lines, scholarships, and state titles. He hosts a program called Man Training Wednesdays. Its goal is simple – to make sure that his players have the tools to be great men. Each week, guests, parents, or coaches lead sessions ranging from how to change a flat tire to how to tie a tie. The Wildcats gain valuable life skills and the opportunity to express their thoughts, fears, and concerns to men who were willing and available to listen.
“It’s bigger than football to me,” Shorter said. “I want our kids to believe in us, to trust us, and to be able to come to us for anything. They are talented enough that if we do the right things, we will win football games. I want to see guys come through our program and have a chance to do something and be something great in life.”
Players who have played under Shorter say that it’s more than a football team, it’s a family. Javancy Jones, former Jackson State standout, played outside linebacker at Noxubee County. He now serves as the defensive coordinator for Louisville.
“Playing in Coach Shorter’s program was more than winning games,” Jones said. “He used to preach to us every day about using football and not letting football use us. His goal was to (make) boys into men and championships just came with it.”
Because of that experience, the choice to join his former coach on the sidelines was a no-brainer.
“Coaching with him was an easy choice,” said Jones. “I wanted to be a sponge and learn everything I could to be a successful coach. He has taught me on-field things but more importantly off-field things. The experience has been excellent.”
Shorter says that for a long time he thought he would have a career in the NFL, but the Lord had something different in store for him. He would not trade it for anything.
“I just have a love for the game,” Shorter said. “It’s bigger than me. It’s about the kids and the programs I’ve been a part of. I’m just blessed to be a part of the great teams I’ve had the opportunity to coach. I’m blessed to have had great coaches around me and great staffs. I’ve been blessed to have some really, really great football players. I just want to see these young men have fun and have a chance to be successful in life.”
They likely don’t mind the championship rings that come along with that.