GOOSE CREEK - Ray Stackley formally announced his retirement as Stratford High School's football coach during a news conference Friday, and pointed out he already had a new full-time position lined up.
"I want to be the best granddaddy in the world," the 63-year-old Stackley told reporters, family members and well-wishers. "It's a somewhat sad day, but it's a great time for me, my family and my four grandchildren."
Stackley, who also served as the school's athletic director, will retire at the end of the academic year after 29 years as the head coach of the Knights.
Stackley was 270-100 in 29 years, leading the Knights to three state championship games and one state title (1999).
Stackley built a successful football program from scratch, but said winning games wasn't what kept him going. It was the relationships he developed and maintained with players after they left school.
He produced high school All-Americans such as Harold Green, Moe Thompson, Rodney Kinlaw and Jacob Park.
But he also produced leaders in the community such as Kenny Farrell, who serves as the principal of Summerville High School, and Mike Darnell, the director of operations, assistant athletic director and baseball coach at Bishop England.
"For me, coach Stackley was like a father away from home," Darnell said. "He taught us all about how to be a man through the game of football. He taught me about morals, work ethic and how to be a leader of men. I will forever be indebted to coach Stackley for teaching me the same lessons my father was teaching me at home."
There was a 10-year stretch when Stackley was arguably the king of Palmetto State coaches as his team posted a 118-18 record and was a state semifinalist on a regular basis. Bob Hayes, who went on to become the head football coach at Wando and still serves as the school's athletic director, was a Stackley assistant during those years.
"I had the opportunity to learn from Ray, and I couldn't have learned from a better man," Hayes said. "What he accomplished during that one stretch is a testament to his coaching skills, and tells you what type of man he is. He is truly a legend."
For nearly 30 years, Ray Stackley might have been the backbone, the man behind the Berkeley County School's vision statement: "To challenge and empower our students to be successful in a highly competitive world."
Friday, it was only appropriate he stood in front of the poster which listed the virtues of the mission statement.
He promised himself he would not cry, but continuously fought back tears when he talked about his players, coaches, supporters and his wife, Lane.
"I couldn't have done it without a good wife," Stackley said. "The job demands would have been too much. She raised our two children when I was trying to help raise thousands of kids who played football."
Stackley said another key to his success was the ability to adapt to change.
"To stay in business, you have to adjust," he said "The players aren't the same as they were in 1985. The parents are different, too. The kids are raised different."
Stackley knows the transition into retirement involves more than a press conference. He knows there will be an itch to coach when spring practice rolls around in May. But he'll stay in the background and resist the temptation to get involved with the team.
"There's no way anyone can be successful with me looking over their shoulder," Stackley said. "It will be best for the players and coaches that I evaporate and then come back in a while and give my total support to the program."
In the meantime, Stackley will have plenty of time for his passions.
"Everyone knows I'm addicted to duck hunting," Stackley said. "They also know I like to hunt deer."
His first priority will be his family.
"He's been thinking about it for a while," Lane Stackley said. "He knew he had to do this while he is still young. There's a whole different life waiting for us, our family and our grandchildren. For all these years, it's been nothing but football from June until December. Now, it will be our time. It will be family time."