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Former Elon coach finds niche on middle school staff

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By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Al Seagraves hadn’t given up on football coaching, but it had been close to a decade since he had as much as a part-time role on a football field.

Then Allen Wolff, the athletics director at Turrentine Middle School, was driving on nearby Gurney Street in Burlington in the summer of 2021, pretty much wondering how he was going to fill a football coaching staff.

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“I saw a ‘Coach Seagraves Painting’ sign,” Wolff said. “I just gave him a call to see if he’d come coach.”

Former Elon University football coach Al Seagraves, who is now an assistant coach at Turrentine Middle School.

Seagraves took the role as an assistant coach to Adhemar Renuart – and both men are thankful that he did.

“He wanted to be interviewed before he took the job,” Renuart said. “You could tell he just loves the game.”

At that time of the first meeting, something occurred to Renuart. “He has coached college football for 34 years,” he said. “I’ve only been alive for 34 years.”

The former collegiate head coach at Elon is the defensive coordinator at Turrentine.

[Story continues below video interview with Seagraves.]

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Seagraves, 69. “This game is bigger than us. They’re trying to learn. They respect where I’ve been and that I could help them. You develop bonds and trust with these kids.

“I coach the same way. I had to simplify things.”

For the 2021 season, Renuart and Seagraves were the only coaches regularly with the Trojans, who produced an undefeated season. This year, there are two more assistants.

“It has been fun,” Seagraves said. “Obviously in college, you have so many more coaches.”

Seagraves coached Elon from 1996-2003, marking the longest run for an Elon football coach since Red Wilson was in charge from 1967-76. Under Seagraves, Elon made the transition from Division II to a Division I-AA independent and then into the Big South Conference and Southern Conference.

By the end, he directed the team to a 40-49 record, including a 9-2 mark in 1999 in the first season in Division I-AA. That included a national ranking.

“There’s no hard feelings,” Seagraves said. “Had a great run.”

Now he’s having a great time.

“Working with the kids every day, it’s just a joy to have the opportunity to work with them,” he said. “They give me a lot of energy. They’re young, vivacious.”

Seagraves dabbled in coaching since he was let go by Elon. He spent a season as an assistant at Division III Muskingham in Ohio, a year helping Williams High School and chipping in with the Alamance Civitans program.

He worked for several years for Atlas Lighting Products in Burlington along with house painting on the side.

He’d venture over to Elon to watch a practice every now and then. He said he stayed young at heart.

“Chasing six grandchildren, and I’ll take them fishing,” he said.

So now he’s at Turrentine, where his youngest child, Chad, attended (and was coached by Wolff) when the family moved here so Seagraves could take the Elon job.

“I love kids and I love the game, so it was a fit,” he said. “We’re having a ball.”

As practice broke up last week, a player checked with Seagraves.

“Will you help me with tackling low?” came the question.

“I saw you starting to do that,” Seagraves responded.

Wolff said it has been a win-win situation.

“I knew what we were getting,” Wolff said. “You can’t go wrong with the Seagraves family and Coach Seagraves. … He comes early. The kids love him to death.”

[Story continues below photo.]

Renuart, who’s a 2005 Bartlett Yancey graduate, said Seagraves is willing to handle whatever comes along.

“He came in with that energy. He was going a thousand miles a minute,” he said. “He made some very complicated adjustments really simple for the kids.”

Yet there are habits that are difficult to break. Seagraves will show up before school starts, breaking down video footage at 7:30 a.m.

Makes sense to him.

“Getting ready for a game,” Seagraves said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s middle school or college, you’ve got to get them ready.”

Seagraves said he appreciates what Renuart has offered as well.

“He has taught me,” Seagraves said. “You’re always learning about the game.”

Seagraves said he’s glad that the staff emphasizes the importance of doing well in the classroom and the community.

So this coaching experience has helped it come full circle for Seagraves.

“I started playing this game when I was 7 years old,” he said. “Somebody took me under their wings and introduced this game and I fell in love with it, so if I can give back that’s a good thing. Just having the opportunity to share and teach the game. Things that I’ve learned over the years from good people.

“There are some parts of the game, it doesn’t matter what level you play at, you’ve got to learn the basics and that’s what’s been so fun teaching these young kids basics.”

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