Oct 22, 2012
After 28 years at the head of the Clayton High School football program, Gary Fowler plans to retire at the end of the season.
"I've probably been the luckiest man in this area for the last 28 years," Fowler said. "This school and this community has been so good to me."
Fowler, 57, told his team about his plans to retire during practice on Monday.
"I didn't want to do it at the beginning of the year because I didn't want this season to be about me, I wanted it to be about the kids," Fowler said.
In his 28 years at Clayton, Fowler has won over 200 games, including the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-A state championship in 1989, which capped off a perfect 15-0 season. He currently posts a career record of 213-122-1.
"I've been blessed in all my years at Clayton with some really great assistant coaches, I've had some really great help," Fowler said. "This isn't the Gary Fowler show, I couldn't do it alone."
Winning the state championship is something Fowler has always cherished as a big milestone since Clayton is one of just a few Triangle schools who can claim a football state championship.
"That's a hard dog to catch. You look at the good programs throughout this area, look at the great coaches who have coached for a long time, and they've never won one," he said. "We had great kids, a great staff, and we caught some big breaks along the way."
So far this season, the Comets have posted a 7-3 record, including a 5-1 record in the Greater Neuse River 4-A Conference. Clayton will play Knightdale on Friday night for second place in the league.
If Clayton can win one more game this season, it will be the first time since 2005 the Comets have won eight or more games.
"Now we're coming back," said Fowler. "I wanted Clayton to be back up when I left, I didn't want to leave it down."
The junior varsity team is 7-2 right now, and Fowler believes the future is bright at Clayton.
"With the juniors they'll have coming back next year, with the underclassmen that will be moving up, I think they'll be pretty good again next year here at Clayton," he said.
Fowler will remain at Clayton as the athletic director for a period of time after the football season but plans to retire completely soon.
"I'm at the point in my life where I've done this for 36 years, and now I'm ready to do some other things that I haven't had a chance to do," he said. "They always say you know when it's time to go, and I feel like right now is the time."
"Sometimes in life you go back and say, 'I wish I would have done this.' I don't want to do that," Fowler said. "I've never been able to take my wife on a vacation, and we've been married 33 years. It's just time for me to do some different things in life."
Fowler doesn't know what philosophy the next football coach at Clayton will carry with him, but there is one thing he hopes the next coach does believe in.
"I would love to have someone here who really is a part of what Clayton stands for," said Fowler. "I think we're a throwback in that we have a community around us, and I think that's big for the town of Clayton."
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