Summerville Coach John McKissick retires as football's all-time wins leader

McKissick announced Tuesday he will retire after 63 seasons as head football coach as Summerville High School.
McKissick announced Tuesday he will retire after 63 seasons as head football coach as Summerville High School.

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - It is the end of an era.

Summerville High School Head Football Coach John McKissick announced his retirement Tuesday morning following a meeting with the superintendent of Dorchester District Two.

McKissick is the winningest coach at any level of organized football with a record 620 wins. Talks of the coach's retirement came Sunday night after sources indicated that the 88-year-old would likely retire.

For McKissick, retirement was not an easy decision, but one that timing made appropriate.

"It was hard to make up my mind to step down," the head coach said Tuesday. "A lot of people retire too young, some retire too old and have nothing to do."

McKissick said age is catching up to him -- He will be 89 in September -- and the decision to step down after 63 seasons was made by him and his wife.

"I don't think anyone's had a better life than I've had," he said. "I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have been here all these years."

"Coach McKissick's extraordinary record over 63 years put Summerville on the map among sports fans," said Summerville Mayor Bill Collins." He has impacted the lives of thousands of young men. He is truly a living legend."

When John McKissick first took over as the head football coach at Summerville high school, no one could have predicted that it would be the beginning of one of the most historic coaching runs in the sport's history.

McKissick was born in September of 1926 in Greenwood, SC.

He would go to Kingstree High School before graduating and heading to Brevard College. After a short stint in the Army, he would return to school at Presbyterian where he graduated in 1951 with a degree in economics.

A year later, he arrived at Summerville to lead the Green Wave, and success was something he and his team found early and often.

Three years after his arrival he'd win his first state championship. And followed that up with another the next season. It would be the start of a run that saw McKissick win at least one state title in each of his first five decades.

Region titles were almost common place at Summerville under McKissick. 37 times in his 63 years with the Green Wave, the team won at least a share of the region championship.

Perhaps even more impressive than the amount of winning McKissick did, was the lack of losing his teams would experience. Only twice in 63 years, 1957 and 2001, did a Summerville team end the season with a record under .500. By comparison, there were five times when his team would finish the season without a loss.

More state titles would come; 1969, back to back in 1978 and 79, then his most successful run with four titles in the 80's including a three-peat from 1982-1984 and again in 1986.

Once McKissick reached the 90s, that's when the career milestones started to come. In 1993, he would win his 406th career game. Making him the all-time winningest head coach on any level of organized football. That win brought the coach and the school national recognition. But for McKissick, it was just the next win.

After, what turned out to be his final state title in 1998, McKissick's next career defining win came in 2003 when he became the first coach to win 500 games. Nine years later, his 600th win came against one of his former assistants beating Kenny Walker and Ashley Ridge.

The recognitions he's been awarded over six decades have been almost countless. Three times McKissick has been named the national high school coach of the year. He's also a member of the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the South Carolina football coaches association hall of fame, the South Carolina hall of fame and the national high school hall of fame.

Along the way, McKissick has coached thousands of kids in his time in Summerville. Some have gone on to fame in the NFL like Stanford Jennings or AJ Green. But maybe the most important number to the legend would be three. The number of his grandsons he's gotten to coach with the Green Wave; Richard and Joe Call and Donny McElveen.

Now, as the coach takes a very well deserved ride into the sunset, he can hopefully spend more time with those three and the rest of his family.

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