With another football season in the books, McCreary is ready to move on to another chapter in his life. He’s about to be a grandparent for the first time, and he’s going to savor it.
“I’d like to be able to spend more time there, and I’d like to be able to visit family because none of them live in this area,” said McCreary. “I’ve been thinking about it for a couple years now. I’ve been in coaching for 37 years. It was just time.”
It’s time for a much-deserved break.
“There’s a lot of busy things going on in your mind when you’re head coach. It’s hard to just turn it off,” said McCreary. “You’d like a little more time. Football has gotten to where it’s year-round. It just felt like the right time to do it.”
Whitewater was the right destination back in 2003 because of his family. McCreary was the head coach and athletic director at Creekside High School as that team was on the cusp of big things, but he had something more important in mind. His son, Kyle, who is now a coach himself, was about to start his junior year playing at Starr’s Mill.
“I was going to give it up to watch him play. I wasn’t going to miss that,” he said.
Building a team from scratch at Whitewater was a perfect fit. The flexibility of starting out with just a JV schedule meant he had Fridays off to watch Kyle his last two seasons. Then McCreary’s daughter went to Whitewater where she starred in basketball, track, and cheerleading, before she went to UGA and captained the cheer squad.
“Being able to be here with her, that was pretty special.”
Amos McCreary is the definition of a good Southern football coach. He’s got the drawl that lets you know he grew up in Harlan, Kentucky. Though he never liked talking at the yearly Crying Towel Kickoff Luncheon, he always managed to leave the crowd in stitches with his down-home stories. He figured out early on back in Kentucky what his future held.
“I was like any other dumb kid. When you first start out you want to play pro something. Just as soon as I knew that wasn’t going to happen, I knew I wanted to get into coaching,” remembered McCreary. “I wanted to remain in athletics because I understood it better than anything else I did.”
After high school, he played at Jacksonville State where he learned a little more about the business. Starting out at running back, he switched to linebacker when a new stud joined the team.
“That’s when I knew I could recognize talent, and it wasn’t mine,” he joked.
After graduation, he jumped right into coaching, first as an assistant at the high school level, then at Jacksonville State as a graduate assistant, before returning to the high school level. He got his first head coaching job at Creekside in 1993, where he stayed until Whitewater opened.
Amos’s Wildcats always played a physical, hard-nosed brand of football. When other teams might have switched to air attacks and trickery, Whitewater became an annual playoff participant with star running backs and punishing linemen.
The fact that the Wildcats finished with a losing record this year makes McCreary’s legacy even more impressive. You see, in the history of the school, the team had never before had a losing record. With Amos at the helm since the start in 2003, Whitewater had strung together win after win.
“We’ve been fairly successful,” McCreary said, underselling a program that the AJC ranked among the 50 best in the state. “It’s been a great run.”
Whether it was knocking off the top-ranked team in the state with a win over Northside Warner Robins in the playoffs or beating a championship-caliber Starr’s Mill team for the first time, there have been far too many victories to celebrate them all.
“Beating Northside Warner Robins when they were ranked sixth in the nation, that was a big victory, but there were a lot of big games that we played here,” said McCreary. “That was the first time Starr’s Mill had been beaten in the county. To beat someone with Coach (Mike) Earwood’s caliber let our kids know they could play at that high level.”
Amos has really never known losing on a football field. In his whole career, from when he started playing at 6 years old through the end of this season, he’s only seen three losing seasons.
“That spans over 50 years. When you’ve only had three losing seasons, you’ve had a silver spoon in your mouth because it could very easily have gone the other way several times,” he said. “It’s just been a great career.”
As meaningful as the on-field wins are, there is another measure of success that makes McCreary beam.
“One of the most fun things for any coach is when you see a kid able to live their dream and go on to college,” said McCreary, who had more than 100 players sign scholarships during his head coaching days. “That’s 100 victories right there. That’s a lot of fun.”
The Wildcats have sent their fair share to big schools, but there’s a little extra pride in seeing players grind their way to a shot at a small school purely on their love of the sport.
“Those kids, they want to play as much as anybody,” he said. “You have to look a little harder sometimes, but, if you can play football at a high level in the state of Georgia, usually you can find somewhere out there to play if you want it enough.”
McCreary never needed to look back after arriving at Whitewater. He always knew he had the love and support of the administration and the community. It’s a special place, not just for him, but for every Wildcat.
“It’s like going to Sunday School every day in this building. Any teacher or any administrator that gets to come here ought to thank their lucky stars, it’s that good,” said McCreary. “I could not have asked for a better place to end my career than Whitewater High School.”
Friday nights next fall won’t be nearly the same for the Wildcats. For the first time, Amos McCreary won’t be roaming the sidelines, but you can bet his legacy of winning will help get the team back to the top of the mountain.