AHSAA Mourns the Passing of Hall of Fame Coach Carrol Cox
MONTGOMERY – The AHSAA is saddened to learn of the death of high school football coaching legend and Alabama High School Sports Hall of Famer Carrol Cox, who passed away earlier this week.
“Coach Carrol Cox was a major positive influence on the lives of so many, especially in Bessemer where he served as head football coach at Jess Lanier High School for so many years,” AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said. “He was a leader that led by example. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and extended family of so many high school student-athletes who played on his teams.”
The funeral service will be held Saturday, Nov. 21 at noon at North Highlands Baptist Church located at 4851 15th Street Road in Hueytown.
Cox, who grew up in Bogalusa (LA), moved to Birmingham to attend Samford University where he was an outstanding defensive lineman on the Bulldogs’ 1971 National championship team. He moved to Bessemer’s Jess Lanier High School in 1973 and remained there for the next 27 years – final 21 as head football coach.
He promised his player one thing, His student-athletes would be taught the fundamentals of football. It is that devotion and detailed attention Cox gave to each student that is the primary reason he was selected to be inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame last winter in the Class of 2021. The induction ceremonies were set for last March but postponed due to the COVID 19 pandemic. He will be inducted posthumously this coming March.
After graduating high school in Jackson (LA), Cox attended Southwest Mississippi Junior College and Samford University on football scholarships. He graduated from Samford in 1973 and later earned a master’s degree in school administration from the University of Montevallo.
When he retired from coaching at Jess Lanier in 2000, he was the winningest coach in school history, having surpassed another legendary Alabama High School Hall of Fame Coach Euil “Snitz” Snider (Class of 1991). Cox, who was 162-77-2 overall at Jess Lanier, had only one losing season in 21 years as head coach. Six teams won 10 or more games. The 1990 team finished 12-3 winning the Class 6A state championship. The Tigers started that season with a 7-0 shutout win over Lee-Montgomery, and ended it with a 35-0 shutout win over Hewitt-Trussville in the semifinals and a 22-0 victory over Murphy in the 6A finals at Legion Field.
Of the three losses, two came by just one point and the other by six points. Lanier lost 17-16 to 1990 GHSA state champion Valdosta (GA) on the road. His 1986 team lost to Lee-Montgomery 13-7 in the 6A finals and his 1997 squad reached the semifinals falling to Tuscaloosa County 14-13. His Tigers beat the Wildcats 14-7 during the regular season, however.
Twelve other Cox teams made the state playoffs and compiled a 22-13 playoff record. His teams also were 54-25 in region play. , compiling a record of 22-13. Cox coached the Alabama All-Stars in the 1990 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. Cox had more than 50 players named to All-State football teams, nine to Super All-State teams, and two selected as high school All-Americans. He also had numerous players who participated in the North-South and Alabama-Mississippi All-Star games. Two players, Kerry Rhodes and Demeco Ryans, also played in the NFL.
Former Bessemer school superintendent Larry O. Wilson said Cox had a knack for reaching hard-to-reach kids.
“Coach Cox built the program under extremely difficult circumstances in a school system that was economically and culturally deprived and could not afford many of the amenities that other programs had,” Wilson said. “Coach Cox worked extremely well with the many educationally deprived students that made up a good percentage of the Jess Lanier student body and encouraged them to achieve at a higher level. His impact and influence on the lives of many young men in the field of athletics and the state of Alabama is deserving of his nomination and election to the Hall of Fame.”
Grover Dunn served as principal at Jess Lanier from 1989-1993. He said he recognized Cox’s leadership very quickly. “I recognized his desire to promote excellence, and I saw his love for children the very first time I observed him on the practice field.”
James M. Howell, another former Jess Lanier principal, also saw Cox up close and personal. “Coach Cox’s teams were always well coached and competitive,” said Howell. “He not only coached football but also coached the players as individuals. Many of the student-athletes have made the City of Bessemer proud in their accomplishments, not only on the field in college and the National Football League, but also in later life as outstanding citizens of the communities in which they work.”
Coach Cox retired at Jess Lanier after the 1999 season. He then moved to Campbell High School in Smyrna (GA) where he remained until he retired for good.