South Charlotte

His Country Day legacy spans 37 years, 3 sports

When Charlotte Country Day football coach John Cook asked Ed Walton to coach the junior varsity football team in 1979, Walton said he would be happy to do it, but he wasn't a football guy.

Walton played baseball growing up and for a year at East Carolina. He was the baseball coach at Country Day.

"I said, 'John, I'll coach your JV team but I don't know anything about football,'" said Walton. "I'm sure that made him pretty happy."

Walton's first JV team was 7-0.

After coaching the JV Bucs for 24 years, Walton likes to think he's become a football guy.

"I guess through doing it, I sort of feel like maybe I know a little bit more about it," he said. "I certainly know a lot more about it than I did before."

After leading Country Day to a 6-2 record this year, Walton retired from coaching football.

"I really felt like it was time for someone else to have the same amount of fun that I did. I enjoyed the kids right up until the last second," he said. "I'm going to miss these kids in football."

It's the third retirement from Country Day that Walton, 67, has had in seven years: he retired from coaching baseball in 2004 and retired from teaching physical education after 37 years at Country Day two years ago.

Walton was born in Richmond, Va., but spent most of his childhood in Arlington.

Growing up listening to Washington Senator baseball games on the radio, he always wanted to be a MLB manager.

"I would sit there and listen to the games at night ... and say 'Heck, I can manage those guys. They're terrible. How much does it take to be a baseball coach?'" he said.

His dreams of professional baseball eventually went away, but he said he still always wanted to be a teacher and a coach.

After spending six years coaching and teaching in Charlotte public middle schools, Walton coached baseball at Country Day for 31 years, winning nine state championships.

He said he was a tough baseball coach, but he cared about his players.

"I wanted them to be able to take more from it than a potential win or loss or a championship or two, but to take something from baseball and be able to put it into their lives," he said.

He also coached basketball for four years in the 70s and continues to serve as a high school basketball referee. In the summer, Walton works with the Charlotte Country Club junior golf program.

Walton's first stint being the team's JV coach lasted just two years. He was an assistant coach with John Cook from 1981-1987. After John Cook died and Bob Witman took over the program in 1990, Walton became the JV coach again.

When Walton started coaching football, he would spend hours with Sam Cook, John's son, learning offensive and defensive schemes. Sam eventually came on as one of his assistant coaches.

Walton went 161-36 in his career with 11 undefeated seasons and win streaks of 35 (1990-1995) and 38 (2000-2004). Walton said he and his assistants were never able to outcoach anyone, but they focused on doing all the little things right and avoiding penalties.

In every sport he coached, Walton had the same philosophy: if you have discipline, commitment, hard work, loyalty and accountability, you'll be successful.

Practices were Walton's favorite part of coaching. Baseball practices were like second nature to him, but he would spend hours planning football practices. When the season was over, he would already start counting the days until the next season started.

Walton took pride in watching his players go on to play varsity and win state championships, like the Bucs did in 2010.

"There's a great deal of pride. You know they won it because Coach Witman and his staff were able to take them to a higher level," he said.

Walton's office walls are a testament to the years of work he's put in at Country Day. One is filled with team pictures from football teams over the years.

The other has many coaching and refereeing awards. It also has pictures of NFL running back Alvin Pearman, former San Francisco 49ers kicker Mike Cofer and former Davidson and minor league pitcher Mike Wells, all former players of Walton's.

Though he's now retired, Walton said he still plans on being around the school, helping with the baseball team and taking care of the baseball diamond at Country Day that bears his name.

After spending so much time at the school, it's hard for him to stay away.

"When I wake up in the morning, I go to Country Day. That's what you're supposed to do," he said.

He still plans on going to Country Day football games every Friday night.

He said he's going to miss coaching, but Walton's looking forward to spending time with his wife, two daughters and playing touch football with his five grandchildren, three of whom are in elementary school at Country Day.

"I'm going to miss it," he said. "Whoever gets the opportunity to do this I hope has a portion of the fun that I had doing this."

Walton said he considers himself lucky to have been a coach at Country Day.

"Life is about the memories you create and the memories you have, and Country Day has provided me two lifetimes full of memories," he said.

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