ELON, N.C. – When the Elon University football team takes the field at Rhodes Stadium for its annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 25, the Phoenix will have two of the best to ever coach in the state of North Carolina on the sidelines. Former Elon head coach Jerry Tolley and former Elon player and Williams High coach Sam Story will serve as honorary coaches for the day.
Elon head coach Rich Skrosky said, “Since I came back to Elon, connecting our current players with those that have come before them has been a priority for me. Elon is so fortunate to have two successful coaches who have had hall of fame careers in the state of North Carolina. They have stayed involved in the Elon community and have been a great resource for me in so many ways. I am grateful to have them involved in our program and honoring them as coaches for the 2015 spring game is just a small way to show how much they are appreciated.”
Tolley began his college football coaching career at Elon in 1967 as the defensive coordinator and later as assistant head coach under Shirley “Red” Wilson. When Wilson departed Elon in 1977, Tolley was elevated to head football coach. Under his guidance, Elon amassed a sizzling 49-11-2 record (.806) with four South Atlantic Conference championships and three district titles over five years. Tolley’s teams also advanced to the NAIA Division I playoffs on three occasions, claiming back-to-back national titles in 1980 and 1981. His 1978 squad earned national runner-up recognition. His 1977 team fell shy of a national playoff berth, but forged a 9-2 record and finished No. 6 in the national rankings. Tolley retired from coaching at the top of his game following the 1981 season.
“I’m delighted that Coach Skrosky asked me to do this,” said Tolley. “I’m really looking forward to it. Sam was on the team in the 1970s when I was an assistant coach and I know him well. It should make for a wonderful evening.”
For his efforts, Tolley collected many accolades including South Atlantic Conference, district, state, regional, area and national coach of the year honors. He also received the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Dwight D. Eisenhower Award and the Eastman Kodak National Collegiate Football Championship Award.
While leading the Elon football program, Tolley coached 53 All-South Atlantic Conference performers – four who achieved South Atlantic Conference MVP status – to go along with 30 all-district honorees, 12 all-state selections and 18 All-Americans. Tolley was inducted into the Elon Sports Hall Fame in 1988.
Tolley continues to receive honors for his coaching accomplishments. In a private ceremony held in the Governor’s office in 2002, Governor Mike Easley, presented him with the Laurel Wreath Award, the highest award given for athletic excellence by the State of North Carolina. In a ceremony held in New Orleans in 2003, the AFCA honored Tolley with its Lifetime Membership Award. At a banquet held in New York City in 2004, The All-American Football Foundation honored him for his long and outstanding contribution to the game of football with its coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006, he received the Distinguished Service in Sports Award presented by the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce. Tolley was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame as part of that group’s 2008-09 class. He earned induction into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
Story was a member of the Phoenix football coaching staff in 2009, helping lead Elon to its first NCAA Division I FCS Playoff berth and a 9-3 record. Story, a 1969 Elon graduate, was a member of the Elon football team in 1965 and 1966.
“It’s an honor to be asked,” stated Story. “I certainly have great respect for Elon and Coach Skrosky. I appreciate being asked and think a lot of Coach Skrosky and his staff. I also have great respect for Coach Tolley and doing this with him is special.”
During his 25 years at Burlington, N.C.’s Walter Williams High School (1983-2007), Story led the Bulldogs to a 201-98 record (.672) with four Eastern North Carolina championships (1985, 1987, 1999, 2005), a pair of state titles (1985, 1999) and a pair of state runner-up finishes (1987, 2005). A 1965 Williams graduate, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in social science with a minor in history from Elon in 1969 and a master’s degree in education from North Carolina A&T University in 1983.
As a player at Williams, Story was a Charlotte News all-state guard who played in the 1964 North Carolina/South Carolina Shrine Bowl all-star game and then went on to coach in four all-star games. He served as an assistant coach in the 1976 North Carolina North/South Game, the 1986 North Carolina East/West All-Star Game and the 1996 North Carolina/South Carolina Shrine Bowl. Story worked as the North Carolina all-star team’s head coach in the 2007 North Carolina/South Carolina Shrine Bowl. He has also served as the president of the Corrigan-Faircloth Chapter of the National Football Foundation and was inducted to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
Before coming to Williams, Story served Duke University as an assistant football coach for six years (1977-82) after spending four years (1973-76) as the head football coach at Southern Alamance High School in Graham, N.C. While at Southern Alamance, he guided the Patriots to a 37-7 mark (.841) with four Mid-State (3A) championships and four city/county crowns. In his 29 campaigns as a head coach, Story compiled a 238-105 ledger (.694). He has also taught classes in advanced physical education, weight training and driver’s education.
Story served stints as the head track and field coach at Williams (1983-88), the director of athletics at Southern Alamance (1973-77), an assistant football coach and the head track and field coach at Southern Alamance (1971-72), an assistant football and boys’ basketball coach at Old Gibsonville (N.C.) High School (1970-71), the head track and field and baseball coach at Turrentine Middle School in Burlington, N.C. (1970) and an assistant football coach at Williams (1969).
Elon’s annual Spring Game will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 25. Admission is free.