Adapted from a 2017 article for The Dillon Herald by Lonnie Turner
Coach Jackie Hayes announced on Tuesday that he was stepping down as head football coach for the Dillon Wildcats, a position he has held for 29 years.
His two 8-4 seasons in 1992 and 2000 are the closest he has ever come to having a losing season.
Since 2000, the Wildcats have reeled off 19 straight season with ten or more victories. That includes seven state titles, 14 Lower State titles, 14 state championship appearances, eight straight state title appeances, and 21 Region Championships. He is #32 in all-time winning percentages in the United States, according to Max Prep. In October, 1961, Jackie and twin brother, Mackie, were the second set of twins born to Julius “Jack” and Virgie Hayes, who a few years earlier had given birth to Ronald and Donald. A daughter, Gail, was sandwiched between the two sets of twins, giving them five children on the salary of a Service Manager at the old Bill Caldwell new car Ford dealership in Dillon and a hard working mother, who was employed by Dixiana Mill, a Mohawk Carpet facility located between Dillon and Hamer.
Jackie said he could vividly remember seeing his Mom’s check stub from Dixiana where she normally put in a 40-hour week!
“Boy, $2.50 an hour wasn’t a whole lot of money for us or anybody else in the early 60s, but Mama and Daddy didn’t let us go lacking. We didn’t always get what we wanted, but we did get what we needed!” He was quite an athlete during his younger days, stating that back in the ‘60s, there wasn’t a whole lot to do, since the internet and smart phones were not things that youngsters depended on. They had to get out and do things, like play some kind of ball like baseball, roll to the bat, and any other thing you could find to do to keep you out of the way of your parents. He started playing Kiwanis Dixie Youth ball, spending much time out at the park, either playing or practicing.
“Like all the other kids in Dillon, we played in the Kiwanis Club’s Dixie Youth Baseball Program, but it wasn’t easy for us to get to the ball park,” he continued.
“We didn’t have but one car and Daddy had it. Mama would catch a ride to the mill, and we would get to school. We, me and Mackie, would ride the school bus and get off at the old Rio Restaurant on the other side of the river and wait there til Mama got off work. She would get a ride and pick us up during the summer and go to the ball park for practice and we would stay there till Daddy got off work and took us home!”
“It’s a lot different today. Most young people miss out on the things we did. They sit around with games on the Smart phones, instead of getting out and playing games like we did.”
Mackie and Jackie survived coming up the hard way and Jackie will tell you now that the way they did it was also pretty hard, especially for Mr. Jack, who would have two or three jobs all the time.
“Daddy was always used to working and his philosophy was simple…if you want something, you have to work for it!”
Talking about his playing days in high school and college, he said his biggest supporters were his Mom and Dad, brothers and sister.
He said his parents went to went to all his ball games, even to Catawba College. They never missed a game until they began to age and the trip prevented them from going.
Ironically enough, after graduating from Catawba College with a BA Degree in 1984, he coached in the Kiwanis Program and that’s where he met and fell in love with Miss Vera Amanda McLellan, who in 1985 became his wife. They are the parents of three children, Zach, Shuler, and daughter Ellie.
Asked if he ever thought that he would return to Dillon an get a chance to coach at his Alma Mater, his response, “Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
As a player at DHS, he was an option quarterback playing for the legendary Paul Chapman who spent most of his career coaching the Wildcats from 1969 through the 1989 season. But it wan’t going to be that easy! Quite a few things stood in the way.
Most people in Dillon aren’t aware of the fact that Coach Hayes was thinking seriously of taking a job at Berkeley High as offensive coordinator for the Stags football team and as a math teacher, since he was told that he would never be a football coach at DHS.
He and wife, Mandy, were employed by the school system at Gordon Elementary and word got to his Principal that he was considering going to Berkeley. A few strings were pulled, and he stayed on in Dillon, only to become a junior varsity coach.
One day, he was thinking,”Why am I doing this? I had the opportunity to become an assistant coach with a pretty good chance at making something of myself and here I am coaching JV football.”
It didn’t take too awfully long for some wheels to start turning and Coach Hayes got the opportunity to coach on the high school level.
One of his friends told him that the people in Dillon were not going to put up with losing football seasons after the winning tradition set by Paul Chapman and that there would soon be a change. Segars went to Georgia to further his coaching career leaving the job vacancy. Coach Hayes said three other coaches came to Dillon to interview for the job, including ex-Hartsville coach Johnny Roscoe, Marty Williams, Richard Clark, and himself.
Coach Hayes also said there was thinking that Lake View’s Jewell McLaurin might would consider vying for the job, but he didn’t want to leave Lake View.
Why did you go into politics he was asked? “Well, I’m really not a politician, who gets things done in order to get recognition in the newspaper and on TV. I just want things to be better for my children and all the others coming up. I do a lot of things in Columbia that you don’t read about, ’cause I don’t do it for recognition.”
Needless to say, Coach Hayes took control of the team in the summer of 1992 and since then his record speaks for itself. He will be missed by the football program.