HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Bobby Halford was doing what he does best - coaching - when one of his William Carey seniors flashed a cell phone in front of him with the words "NAIA Coach of the Year" on the screen.
A few moments later, it was announced over the speaker system that Halford was named the 2017 NAIA Coach of the Year. Even the seven-year-old kids at Halford's baseball camp took a break from their horseplay to applaud the Crusader head coach.
"It's just overwhelming because you never think about things like that," Halford said. "You just try to do your job, work hard. I'm just so blessed to be at this school and the support that we have. And the two assistant coaches this year, Ben Smith and Reggie Richardson, just did a yeoman's job. They worked so hard to help us get where we got. And also, we had ten seniors that were real big for us that really did a great job. It's always a team effort so I'm just kind of shocked really cause usually the team that wins it, that's usually the coach of the year. It caught me totally by surprise."
"[Halford] told me it was all us," said Sam Richard, a recent Carey graduate. "But he knows, we all know, it was him. He's worked hard for it. He's grinded it out more than anybody on the team this year, really. To us, it's really not that big of a surprise."
Halford's honor is a first in the history of William Carey. Carey advanced to its first NAIA World Series since 1978 and earned its first Series win since 1965 en route to the semi-finals, losing to eventual-champion Lewis-Clark State.
The Crusaders' 45 wins this season are the second-most under Halford who led Carey to 47 wins in 1995. The 32-year head coach of the Crusaders ranks fourth among active NAIA coaches with 1,107 wins.
"God just puts you in the right place and he blesses you and that's just what it's all about," Halford said. "We had a lot of help. We had a lot of divine intervention this year that was unexplainable at times. I'm just humbled by it and being in this place, it's a special place. It's not all about baseball all the time. It's what we become and hopefully we can help these young men grow into productive citizens, good fathers, good leaders and that type thing."