“Jerry ‘Buck’ James is a visionary with a heart for kids. His presence will enable our football program to transcend as a whole.”
– Mike Lee,
Bryant Athletic Director
The Bryant Hornets haven’t had a new head football coach in 13 years. James succeeds Paul Calley, who is now the head coach at Benton Harmony Grove. “Coach James and I have known each other for 25 years, and I feel he will be good for the team for a variety of reasons,” Lee said. “He has a heart for kids and he has assembled what I think is a good coaching staff. They will take on his personality, so in essence we will have all of our football leaders pulling the same rope in the same direction.”
Originally from Pine Bluff where he played various sports growing up–including football of course–James comes to Bryant from Little Rock Christian Academy. He had retired from Camden Fairview before taking on the LRCA offensive line coach and athletic director positions for two years.
During his nine-year tenure at Camden, he took the Cardinals to three state championship games. He was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame at University of Monticello, named the 2010 Arkansas Coach of the Year by the Little Rock Touchdown Club and named Hooten’s Coach of the Year in 2012.
Coaching is James’s way to give back, he said. Growing up in a single-parent home, James found comfort in his coaches. He considers them his male role models. “They took time to build relationships with me and taught me the right way to live life and how to nurture and develop young men,” he said. “I knew in the eighth grade that I wanted to be a coach. I’ve been involved in athletics all my life. I don’t know anything else.”
His goal has always been to make a difference in young men’s lives. “I strive to be a source of their development, on and off the field,” James said. “Sports is a great tool to teach kids to rise above difficulties in life and help them down the road. It teaches them work ethic and values. It’s more than just a game.”
Winning is also a goal, and James plans to, starting with the notorious Salt Bowl game. A big goal is to win a state championship. “You always want to do that as a coach,” he said. Above all, he noted, “I want every kid to have a good experience and something that stands out when they look back 10 to 15 years from now. My goal is for our kids to get the basics, be guided to the best of their abilities and have fun together.”
James and his family left Camden for his sixth-grade daughter’s academic needs. LRCA helped reset her scholastic success. When she started at Bryant after the winter break, “she took to Bryant like a fish to water,” he said. “It’s a great school that has everything you need and all the resources, whether it’s arts or athletics. Life is about meeting diversity and meeting different needs of different people, and Bryant excels at that.”
He continued, “We put faith in the Lord when we walked away from Camden. Not many people would walk away from what I did – we won more games in the last nine years than everybody in the state except for three other schools. It was blind faith, but when you trust in faith, good things happen.”
He and his wife, Jennifer, a biology teacher, also have a second-grader and ninth-grader at Bryant schools, and the oldest, who was on one of James’s state championship teams, plays football at Missouri State University.
James said he is impressed with how well the Bryant players have handled the transition. “I have been surprised and amazed at the attitude of the kids. They are respectful, work hard and do what we ask of them, which says a lot about Coach Calley.”
The Salt Bowl is the first game of the season and James simply wants his players to look like they’ve been coached well, to play hard and play with a lot of heart. “There aren’t many chances for high school kids to play in front of more than 30,000 people. That has to be lots of fun,” he said. “Hats off to everyone who supports and attends the game. Nothing but great things comes from it – it builds community, football programs and brings a lot to light. It’s a win-win for a student-athlete.”