A hard goodbye: Dusty Hubbard steps down as Callaway defensive coordinator after 19 years

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Callaway’s Dusty Hubbard has been an institution on the sidelines at Callaway Stadium on Friday nights in the fall. Starting in 2004, Hubbard served as the defensive coordinator right up until the team took a heartbreaking 17-14 loss to Fitzgerald in November of 2023 that saw another excellent season cut short. For 19 seasons Hubbard molded young immature football players into outstanding role models and citizens. But as Hubbard inches closer to retirement and with his son, Bryce, set to play college baseball starting next fall, Hubbard now felt like the right time to pass the torch off to somebody else.

“I have a son going to college next year and another son that is 12 years old, so now just felt like the right time,” Hubbard said. “People always say you know when it’s time and it just felt like it was my time. I’m not saying that I won’t ever coach football again, but I know that I was not prepared to do it this year, so it felt like it should be somebody else in the role.”

Whoever steps into the role will have big shoes to fill. Hubbard’s defense allowed just 16 points per game during his 179 games on the sidelines for the Cavaliers. His work that helped the Cavaliers win the first state title, not just in program history but in school history, speaks for itself.

“I hate to say it, but that moment culminated more into a feeling of relief than joy because it finally felt like we got the monkey off our back,” Hubbard said. “There were a lot of people who said we couldn’t do it and Callaway could never win the big game, so it just felt like a weight was lifted off our shoulders and in the next few weeks I was able to enjoy it more. 

Hubbard will still be in the halls every day at Callaway High and offer any advice and information he can to his eventual replacement.

“The first thing I would tell [the next defensive coordinator] that they are in a special place, I mean they really are,” Hubbard said. “The second thing I would tell them is to stick to what you believe in. If there is a certain defense or whatever, stick to what you believe in and don’t let people talk you out of what is comfortable to you.”

One of the special aspects of Callaway football is the continuity that has been present at the school. Since head coach Pete Wiggins took over in 2005, he has had exactly one defensive coordinator and only two offensive coordinators — current LaGrange High head coach Matt Napier and current Callaway offensive coordinator Zach Giddens.

“Since I’ve been here there have been only two offensive coordinators which gives us continuity and says a lot about our program,” Hubbard said. 

Wiggins and Hubbard have served as quite the duo on the sidelines and Wiggins knows that Fridays in the fall will be a little bit different now.

“It was a great 19 years and it will be different not having him there on the sidelines, but he is going to spend more time with his family and he has more than earned that,” Wiggins said. “When he took over our defense was not very good, but he quickly turned them around.”

Hubbard’s character and resume speaks for itself. The thousands of young men that he has helped nurture into model citizens serve as a testament to his resolve and commitment. Even though he is far from done molding young people at Callaway High, his time of molding young football players has reached its end.

“Coach Hubbard is a winner in everything he does,” Wiggins said. “He always made people around him better, both coaches and players. He has a great ability to make players play better than they are. Kids want to play for him.”

His time as defensive coordinator also modeled Hubbard into a better man. His temperament leveled out and a once insecure and second-guesser became a confident leader on the sidelines. 

“I second-guessed myself a lot at first,” Hubbard said. “There were a lot of nights where I would go home and think ‘Well I should have done that differently or I should have done this.’ Eventually, I figured it out and I knew what I had to do. Teams had to start adjusting to what we were doing rather than us adjusting to them.”

The Callaway defense under Hubbard was one that was feared across the state. Troup High had one of the best seasons in program history in 2022 and was lighting teams up with their offense en route to a AAAA state semifinals appearance. The team’s lowest-scoring performance was 21 points in the semifinals against eventual AAAA state champions Benedictine. The second lowest? The 23 points the Tigers put up on AA Callaway.

“His defenses are always well prepared and know your tendencies,” Troup coach Tanner Glisson said. “They are a physical defense that knows how to stop the run. We have always had some really tough games against those guys and we had to be at the top of our game to score on them.”

Glisson and Hubbard go back to their high school playing days at Manchester and Hogansville in the 1990s. Hubbard congratulated Glisson when first arrived in Troup County over a decade ago and now they came full circle as Glisson returned the favor and congratulated Hubbard on an outstanding career as the defensive coordinator.

“Dusty and I go way back to our playing days when I was at Manchester and he was at Hogansville, so I have known him since about 93-94,” Glisson said. “He was a tough, hard-nosed individual and he has brought that over to coaching. 

“I just reached out to him this morning (Tuesday) and congratulated him on his career.”  

In total, the two men locked horns seven times opposite each other at Troup and Callaway High. Hubbard got the better of Glisson, barely, going 4-3 and only allowing more than 24 points on two occasions. 

Hubbard is not going anywhere anytime soon. He will remain the Callaway baseball coach as the team continues to hunt for that elusive state title. He may no longer spend Friday nights barking commands and Saturday mornings breaking down film, but he is still a Cavalier down to the bone.

“I’m still going to be around even though I’m going to step back and do some other things,” Hubbard said. “Now, instead of being a coach, I’m the biggest Callaway football fan there is.”