There's simply no way to gauge the impact Wayne Turner has had on the countless teenagers who have have called him "Coach T."
While Turner has been one of the city's winningest football coaches for more than 20 years at Tyner, his early career taught him to savor not only every on-field victory but the importance of being a positive role model as well.
Turner has the unique perspective of having experienced the lowest point of any team in state history as well as the pinnacle of prep coaching. He was the head coach at Kirkman High during a portion of the Golden Hawks' national-record-setting 51-game losing streak, and seven years later his Tyner team was the first public school team from Hamilton County to earn a state championship under the TSSAA's playoff format.
Turner always has compared the feeling that came when Kirkman finally snapped its losing streak on a soggy makeshift field at Taft Youth Center, with no fans in attendance, with the thrill of the last-minute touchdown that lifted Tyner to a state title on the frozen turf at Vanderbilt with thousands of supporters filling both sides of the stands.
And with a win tonight against a struggling Red Bank team, Turner will earn the 200th win in a memorable career.
Turner and Calhoun's Hal Lamb are the only area coaches who have been at their current schools for more than 10 years. As an example of just how rare it is for any coach to remain at one program for an extended period, 44 other area programs have made coaching changes in the last five years.
While there are a handful of coaches who worked in our area and collected more wins, perhaps no coach has meant as much to one program as Turner has to Tyner.
The Rams had never won a playoff game, had failed to make the postseason each of the five years before Turner's arrival and had never made the postseason more than three consecutive years.
A win tonight also would extend the Rams' playoff streak to an area-best 20 years, and Turner already owns 23 playoff victories. From 1996 to 2005 the Rams won fewer than 10 games just once, won 60 of 61 region games -- by an average of 36 points -- and had 36 players earn college football scholarships.
Aside from his on-field success, the one constant from Turner has been his example of leadership standards. Last month he turned his own program in to the TSSAA when he discovered he had inadvertently played an ineligible player. The decision cost Turner and the Rams two victories, including a key district win, but was another example of the integrity he wants his players to learn from.
He's one of the last coaches in the state to call plays without using a play chart or headphones, and the Rams don't even have assistants in the pressbox to give him added advice from high above the field.
He growls at his players over every missed block or tackle, and that discipline is the foundation on which the Rams built their success. He once even kicked a starting lineman off the team the week of the state championship game for a violation of team rules.
And now, as another regular season comes to a close tonight, there's no better payoff than for "Coach T" to earn a milestone win and yet another trip to the playoffs.
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 23 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including nine in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation at the Associated ...