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Pardue part of Hall of Fame ceremony

DALTON – They are moments Jay Russell treasures.

When Russell was the athletics director and a coach at LaGrange High, one of his daily routines was meeting with head football coach Steve Pardue before the school day began.

Russell came to LaGrange High in 2000, six years after Pardue became the head coach, and it didn’t take the two long to become friends and begin sharing those early-morning sessions.

Russell recalled those special moments on Saturday when he introduced Steve Pardue during the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame banquet

Pardue, along with five other members of the Hall of Fame class of 2020, was recognized during the event at the Dalton Convention Center.

“Shortly (after I was hired), coach Pardue and I started having conversations just every morning before school would begin,” Russell said. “He’d come in the office at 6:45, or I would go down to his office at 6:45, and we’d talk a lot of football, but we talked a lot of life, too. That’s when we became fast friends. That went on until Steve’s departure. Steve’s the kind of friend you want to have. He’s got your back, and I had his back.”

Pardue, Russell added, “has won a lot of games, but his greatest talent was creating a family atmosphere, filled with love, and based on respect.”

Pardue, a native of Kentucky, came to LaGrange High in 1991, and he was elevated to the head-coaching position in 1994.

During his 17 seasons leading the program, Pardue compiled a 161-45 record, and he guided the team to state championships in 2001, 2003 and 2004.

After a three-year stint as an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, Pardue returned to Georgia and won 24 games in three seasons at East Coweta.

Combining the 17 wins he had as the head coach at Crittendon County High in Kentucky, Pardue finished his high-school career with 202 wins.

While Pardue was committed to the business of winning football games, and business was good, he was also focused on setting a positive example for the players.

“We always tried to involve our families, because I want our kids to see our coaches as husbands, as fathers, especially because a lot of kids we had didn’t see that,” Pardue said. “That was a conscious effort we made.”

Pardue began his coaching career in 1985 at Fayette County High, and he was at Albertville (Ala.) in 1986.

Pardue got his first chance to be a head coach at Crittendon County High in his home state of Kentucky, and he held that position for four seasons.

In 1991, Pardue returned to Georgia and was an assistant coach for three season at LaGrange High before taking over the program in 1994.

The Grangers went 11-1 in Pardue’s third season as head coach, and they followed that up with back-to-back 9-2 seasons.

Beginning in 2000, the Grangers embarked on a remarkable 10-year stretch.

During the decade of the 2000s, the Grangers went 114-17, and they won state titles in 2001, 2002 and 2004.

From 2000 to 2004, the Grangers were 51-3, and that included unbeaten seasons in 2001 and 2004. Had the football bounced their way, the Grangers could have won state in 2000 and 2003 as well.

“I was honored to be a part of his staff for three years, for three state championships at LaGrange High,” Russell said. “It could have very easily been five. It could have been five in a row actually. A lot of people forget that. LaGrange High was very close to winning a couple of others.”

While the wins belonged to Pardue, he gladly shares the credit with a group of assistant coaches he worked alongside for years.

“I got a lot more credit than I deserved,” Pardue said. “I had a bunch of not only great coaches, but great people. That was our philosophy when we hired new coaches. I felt like just keep hiring good people, and we could teach them how to coach.”

In a business where coaches move around with frequency, LaGrange enjoyed unusual stability on its staff. For most of his tenure as head coach, Pardue had many of the same coaches, including offensive coordinator David Traylor and defensive coordinator Donnie Branch.

“We had very little turnover,” Pardue said. “Those guys stayed, and we had a great run.”

Pardue was always confident that he and his coaches would do everything possible to be ready on game night.

“The biggest thing was, we had fun,” Pardue said. “We had fun with each other, and we enjoyed each other. It wasn’t anybody’s fault when something went wrong. We all knew we were prepared. That’s all I ever asked was just prepare the best we can, and if the other team beats us, we’re going to shake their hand, and go back to the house and work. If you ever got beat and felt like you weren’t prepared, that’s a sick feeling. That was always our goal.”

Pardue was a part of a Hall of Fame class that included five other men.

Among the other inductees was Max Bass, who won 216 games during a 29-year stint leading the Newnan football program.

The other members of the class of 2020 are Cecil Barber, Bill Thorn, Cecil Flowe, and A.C. McCullers.

The inductees were supposed to be recognized last year, but the banquet was postponed because of COVID-19. The banquet was re-scheduled for last weekend, and each of the inductees was limited in the number of guests they could have.

“My biggest regret is, because of COVID, there were limited numbers of people I could invite,” Pardue said. “I wanted to send invitations, and let them know I really appreciate you.”

Pardue still had a nice contingent of guests, including his wife Pam, his children Chas and Morgan and their spouses, along with his grand-children.

Also in attendance were some of the people who coached with Pardue, including Jay Russell, Donnie Branch, David Traylor, David Pleasants, Paul Pickett, Thomas Crocker, Kenny Moore, and Mike Pauley.

It was a special day, and Pardue was grateful to be a part of it.

“I think this is one of the better things our coaches association does,” Pardue said. “I’ve been involved, and I’m going to stay involved. I look forward to that.”

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