By TONY STINNETT
Courier Sports Editor
Cannon County lost a local sports legend when Coach Mike Mayfield died from complications following an automobile accident Tuesday (Sept. 25) in the Vanderbilt Hospital trauma unit.
Funeral services for Mayfield, 69, were conducted Sept. 28 at Woodbury First Baptist Church, and graveside services were held Sept. 29 at Mt. Tabor Cemetery in his hometown of Blountsville, Ala.
Mayfield was involved in a single-vehicle accident on East Main Street in front of Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, Sept. 14. He had been hospitalized since.
Those who knew and worked with Mayfield during a long tenure as teacher, football coach and assistant principal at Cannon County High School say he left a lasting impression on all he encountered. The retired educator was a current member of the Cannon County School Board.
"I have known Coach Mayfield since he came to Cannon County in 1970," said Director of Schools Barbara Parker. "He was one of my high school history teachers, and for several years we taught across the hall from each other. In addition, we attended the same church. Coach Mayfield was a hard-nosed football coach who garnered the respect of his players. He had a humorous side and loved to spin every comment into a joke, but he had a serious side as well.
"He cared deeply for his family, his friends, his former football players, the students and teachers in the Cannon County School System, and of course Alabama football."
Parker said Mayfield told her he ran for a spot on the Board of Education to help make the system better.
"Many times (Mayfield) told me he ran for School Board member because he 'wanted to help people and make school better for everyone,'" Parker said. "He was the type of person who told you exactly what he thought at the moment, even if there were dire consequences, but he would also end our conversations with, 'I'll be praying for you.' Knowing Coach and his great faith in God, I knew these weren't idle words. He will be missed."
Cannon County Head Football Coach Brent Bush, who played for Mayfield at Cannon County, said the former coach was a great mentor to him, especially during this, his first season, as a head football coach.
""We talked weekly. He helped at practice, talked to the players and was the best mentor I could have ever asked for. I truly enjoyed being mentored by Coach. Most people called him 'Coach.' I called him 'Sir.' In the Army, only those that outrank you are called 'Sir.'
"He was my Coach, but he was also a great guy that was passionate about football and life. He would also say it was the only game that replicates the struggles that you will have in life. He was not kidding when it came to mine. He was an intelligent man who could take something very complex and bring it down into the simplest form. He did that by providing fun and humor with a passion for the game."
Bush said Mayfield taught leadership and helped players understand it was special to get to play football.
"Playing for Coach was awesome," Bush said. "He expected a lot from his players. He was always clear, concise, to you as a player, manager or anybody around him. You would never lack for direct guidance, and you always knew where you stood."
Football players were not the only students Coach Mayfield cared about during his tenure. Cannon County High School Principal Tim Knox said Mayfield went out of his way to help all students.
"I remember when Coach Mayfield and I supervised the cafeteria together that he handed out probably $1,000 over a several-year period to kids who needed a dollar or even more," Knox said. "He never refused a kid who needed money, food, or any necessity. I believe that Coach truly loved children."
People believe Mayfield is reason why Cannon County has football today. Mayfield would say it was the players, particularly a special seven he called the 'Magnificent Seven.'
By the end of spring drills in the 1973 Cannon County was down to seven players. Bruce Daniel, a current school board member and former player for Mayfield, said the 'Magnificent Seven' made May-field most proud.
"We went to practice and there were only seven players left," Daniel recalls. "Seven is all we had left, period.
Not seven good players and some others, but seven bodies.
Coach Mayfield questioned whether we wanted to continue the football program at Cannon County or not. There was a big debate and we told them we wanted to play.
We got out and scurried and got people to come out for football. Coach Mayfield would not let us quit. He said the reason Cannon County has football today was because those even wouldn't quit then and from there we built."
Mayfield would go on to say those “Magnificent Seven” forged the future of Cannon County football. They would not quit and, as a result, neither would he.
Mayfield’s players say he motivated them to not only give everything they had on the football field, but in all areas of their lives.
“He wanted the best for us and he expected us to give our best in everything we did,” former player Charles Alexander said. “He loved his players and we loved him.
Coach cared about us as much after we finished playing for him as he did while we were in school playing for him.”