And that’s the key

Phil Ziglar caps off 43-year career dedicated to both the game and those who play it


photo by Juliana Joyner

Head coach Phil Ziglar addresses his team for the final time after a 48-7 loss to Robert E. Lee.

It was the end of an era. Despite a Nov. 9 loss to Robert E. Lee, the varsity football team exchanged tearful embraces at midfield, long after the game had ended.

“There’s two things in life you remember as a head coach,” head coach Phil Ziglar said. “Your first game and your last game.”

After a 43-year long career on the sideline, including six for Hagerty, Phil Ziglar is retiring from coaching and teaching when the semester ends on Dec. 21.

“I just really felt that it was time for me to go,” Ziglar said. “I felt that right now was a good time for me to start being able to visit my grandkids in North Carolina.”

He leaves not only a prolific career on the sideline, with eight district championships, three regional titles and a state championship appearance in 2007, but also a career that has allowed him to impact the lives of those who have worked for him, played for him, or simply known him.

After two seasons playing in the Canadian Football League for the Calgary Stampeders, Ziglar began coaching as an assistant for Colonial High School in 1976, when Gerald Ford was president, gas was 59 cents per gallon and the release of Star Wars was still nine months away.

He was there when Dr. Phillips High School started its football program in 1987, there when Boone went to its first (and only) state championship in 2007, and he was there when Hagerty won its first district championship in 2015.

William Daniel, who has known Ziglar since he joined the Boone coaching staff in the summer of 1994, still remembers the lead-up to the state championship game, in what was then known as the Citrus Bowl.

“Kaley Street was lined three deep for a mile with nothing but orange & white. Over 20,000 people were in the stands, the all-time high in attendance for a high school championship game held in Orlando,” Daniel said.

“To see the smile on his face, realizing that all of his hard work had led to the creation of that celebratory experience for every graduate of Orlando’s oldest high school, is something that I’ll never forget.”

Ziglar’s dedication to the success of his athletes went so far that he participated in drills with them. Even as he entered his 60’s, he always thought that if his players could do it, he could do it too.

“What I remember most about him is his total commitment to the players, not just to turn them into better players but into better men,” Kenneth Hensley, who coached with Ziglar for 17 years at Boone, said. “His passion for this goal was all-consuming and the results are evident in the caliber of men he produced.”

Cody Allen, who played football and baseball for Boone and graduated in 2007, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2011, and made his Major League Baseball debut a year later. He went on to become the team’s closing pitcher and became the franchise’s leader in saves this past season. Through all of his on-the-field success is in baseball, he still remembers the life lessons Ziglar taught him on the football field.

“I didn’t truly realize at the time, but he was molding and shaping us into better husbands, fathers, brothers and sons,” Allen said. “He taught all of us about hard work and accountability, and that those character traits of a man should never waver. He drove all of us to heights some of us thought we could never reach.”

Pullquote Photo

Coach Zig wasn’t just my boss. He was my friend and mentor.

— Masters Academy Head Coach Jermal Jones

Ziglar has had the same impact on his staff. He gave Hensley, now coaching flag football at Boone, his first coaching job.

“I’ve modeled a lot of what I do as a coach after his example,” Hensley said. “He was able to get the most out of people and get them to believe in themselves.”

Those who know him say Ziglar would “give the shirt off his back” if asked.

“He always put your needs in front of his,” Winter Springs head coach Steven Mikles said. “He really would do anything to help you if he liked you.”

Some of Ziglar’s favors to his assistants included picking Mikles up from the airport at 1 a.m. and letting him stay in his house for two weeks, or giving now Masters Academy head coach Jermal Jones his car after Jones locked himself out of his own car.

“Coach Zig wasn’t just my boss,” Jones said. “He was my friend and mentor.”

This was especially true for his student-athletes. Colonial Athletic Director Andrew Hamre coached with Ziglar at Boone for seven years in the 90’s. His son was being scouted by colleges, and a coach from Wisconsin flew in to see him practice. However, Hamre’s son was suffering an injury, but he decided to push through and practice anyway.

“When it did not go well, the coach gave my son some grief and carried on about having to come all this way to see a poor performance,” Hamre said. “Ziglar got wind of this and went to my son’s defense. He ran the coach off and we never saw or heard from him again.”

Ziglar’s presence did not just impact the football team. During his 23-season tenure at his alma mater Boone, he helped shape the school’s culture. He hosted an annual back-to-school faculty fish fry, a Christmas party at his home, and attended games from all of Boone’s sports. Boone’s student section was dubbed “Zig’s Pigs,” which Hagerty would emulate, coining their student section “Ziglar’s Zoo.”

Through it all, however, the key was that he treated everyone he met with the utmost respect.

“I’m a firm believer that every person who wakes up in the morning is due the same respect that you want given to you,” Ziglar said.

Some view Ziglar’s departure as an end of an era. From his first season at Colonial, to his state championship appearance with Boone, to upsetting an undefeated Edgewater for Hagerty’s second district championship in his final season, Ziglar attributes his success to having his heart and mind invested in the game. Even in retirement, he will still have a place in his heart for coaching.

“When a person finds something they love, and they love to do it every day, and every minute of their life, they’re blessed,” Ziglar said. “And I can truly say that I’ve been a blessed man.”