‘One of the great ones’ — Mississippi coach remembered across sports community for hard work, sense of humor, deep sense of pride for players

Published 5:09 am Monday, July 17, 2023

During a 25-year career, Chad McMullin taught a generation of Warren Central athletes and students the virtues of sweat and the value of a joke.

McMullin instilled a strong work ethic in his pupils, sometimes by putting in the same hard work he demanded of them. Afterward, he was never afraid to share a one-liner and a smile that endeared him to everyone he met.

It was the mix of humor and hard work that friends and colleagues remembered most after Warren Central’s longtime strength and conditioning coach died Saturday at the age of 52.

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“I don’t have anybody to compare him to. He was just unique in such a good way. He loved his family. He loved Warren Central. And he loved his players, the guys and girls that he coached,” Warren Central football head coach Josh Morgan said. “He lived such a good life and made such a positive impact. He’s one of a kind. So many good memories. So many good times. He was loved and was a big part of our family.”

McMullin came to Warren Central in 1998, first at its junior high school and then at the high school a few years later. He was one of the longest-tenured members of the current football coaching staff.

“He’s like a family member. We’ve been knowing him for such a long time and it’s just so shocking. It feels like you’ve lost a family member,” Vicksburg Warren School District athletics director James Lewis said. “Our thoughts and our prayers and our hearts are with his family at this time. We’re going to respect their privacy, but we want them to know we loved him like he was one of our own. He will be deeply and dearly missed.”

Although he was primarily attached to Warren Central’s football program, McMullin’s talents were hardly limited to that sport. He took over as the powerlifting head coach in 2001 and had been in that role ever since. He started the girls’ powerlifting program as well, in the late 2000s.

He served as the head cross country coach and a junior high basketball and football coach at various times, and helped the school’s other athletic programs with their strength and conditioning work.

“He’s been involved in a lot of different shapes and forms. Junior high football, then he moved over here and has been in everything from cross country to football, of course the powerlifting. Just many different aspects,” Morgan said. “He’s touched a lot of lives through those different channels. He dedicated his life to not only this school, but this community and these kids. He was a mighty important figure.”

In his various roles, McMullin helped mold many of Warren County’s athletes for more than two decades. Lewis, who graduated from Warren Central in 2004, was among the first athletes McMullin taught.

“We were his first graduating class. We’ll never forget him. He basically came with us when we left junior high to come to the high school,” said Lewis, who later coached basketball at Warren Central and is now the VWSD’s athletics director. “Coach McMullin was what we knew, and he really took pride in that strength training program. He made us work hard and focus on our bodies. He was a good leader when it came to that kind of stuff. He knew it like the back of his hand.”

The knowledge came as much from practical experience as it did books and classrooms. McMullin was a competitive powerlifter who could bench press well over 500 pounds.

Christopher Lacey, the football head coach at Vicksburg High School, graduated from Warren Central in 2007. He said seeing McMullin put in that kind of effort inspired Warren Central’s players to work harder.

“We caught them back when they were fresh out of college, when Coach McMullin and Coach (Corey) Wilson were putting 375 on the bar and you were amazed that they would do that,” Lacey said. “That was something that pushed everybody else. Kind of like looking at some superheroes.”

If McMullin was a superhero, he was one who was down to earth. Friends remembered him as being quick with a tension-lightening joke whenever it was needed.

“He was always joyful. He had such a great personality. He just had a way of making you laugh. Such a unique personality and a wonderful sense of humor. He was one of a kind, for sure,” Morgan said.

McMullin also had a deep sense of pride in his players as they moved on in life. Lacey said that, even after his own coaching career began in 2015, McMullin continued to be a trusted mentor.

“He would give me advice on things. I started to see a different side of him when I made it to college,” Lacey said. “I would come home from Mississippi College and go to Warren Central to work out during summer. He would come in and almost be proud to show the other players that this is one of his guys who took a commitment to the weight room and built his muscles and all that. I would always tell people that Coach McMullin built my foundation in the weight room.”

St. Aloysius football head coach Bubba Nettles coached Vicksburg High’s powerlifting team during a long run at that school, and often shared buses with Warren Central’s squad to various meets. He said McMullin’s love for his family and work always shined through.

“Coach McMullin was definitely one of the great ones. He was passionate about his work and always believed in the young men he was building both physically and spiritually,” Nettles said. “One thing that was always clear to me was his love for all things Warren Central, the study of strength and conditioning, but most of all he absolutely loved his family. The world lost a great one. We need more Chads in this world, not less.”

Warren Central’s football players are scheduled to have a team meeting on Monday morning. Lewis said grief counselors will be available for players and staff.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

“We are going to have resources on hand for those kids and coaching staff. Counselors and therapists will be on campus (Monday) at Warren Central for anyone who may need it,” Lewis said.

Morgan said he and his staff pledged to take care of McMullin’s family. McMullin is survived by his wife Brandie and two sons, Sam and Ben.

“We’ll do our very best to honor him and take care of his family. One thing we know is that our community is like no other. When times get tough, we all rally around one another. I know that’ll be the case with his family,” Morgan said.

In the hours after news of McMullin’s death broke, current and former Warren Central players and students flooded social media outlets with dozens of memories of his long tenure. It was almost impossible to find a negative one.

It was the ultimate tribute to a life that touched hundreds of others, Morgan said.

“In our profession you don’t get many pats on the back,” Morgan said. “But the people that you’ve been with, when they show that amount of love and respect — especially after they leave — it’s a great feeling that I know he would appreciate because he did have such a positive impact.”