Terry Burt (left) receives the Lifetime Achievement from ALFCA Board Member Jackie O’Neal
If you were a high school football coach in this state in the 1970’s and you were looking to pad your schedule with an easy win, when you came across the name Elmore County you just kept on looking. Because in those days, you didn’t want to go to Eclectic, Al and Play the Panthers of Terry Burt.
A graduate of Greenville High school, Terry played football at Livingston University where he was captain and most valuable player before graduating in 1960. After serving as an assistant coach at Phenix City for two years and at Livingston for one year, he went to Elmore County High School in 1963 as head coach. He would never leave.
He began to build the Panther teams. Sometimes in football it takes a while and Terry Burt was willing to wait. Frequently playing against bigger schools, he had some winning teams along the way but by 1972 the Panthers turned the corner. Coach Burt’s team made the playoffs for the first time and finished 10-2. The next season the Panther’s went 8-2 but in 1974 they were in the playoffs again, winners of 11 games. In 1976 Elmore County lost to Tallassee at mid-season, but the defense buckled down and the team went on a playoff run. On Dec 3, 1976 Elmore County defeated Red Bay 20-12 for its first state championship. The ’77 team was good but lost to Handley in a close game in the first round of the playoffs. The 1978 Panthers went 13-1 and Terry had his second state championship in three years. Known for a tenacious defense, backs named DeJarnett, and a Wing-T offense with a power running game the Panthers continued to win year after year. Terry nurtured players with family problems, young coaches trying to learn the game. He was a coach of persistence…persistence to practice, persistence to do the little things to make you successful. The 1987 team lost two regular season games but went on another Terry Burt playoff tear. After beating Shelby County in the first game, Elmore County defeated Alba and upset Pike County. On Nov 27, 1987 Elmore County met Lanett in Eclectic. Lanett was the odds on favorite to win the championship and had defeated the Panthers 28-10 a month earlier. But the Elmore County defense shut out Lanett and the 6-0 victory sent Coach Burt to his third state championship game. The following week Elmore County went to Alexandria and won 28-7. The Panthers were champions again.
Terry retired in 1989 but would come back 10 years later to coach a 3 year stint for the Panthers. This time he tutored former Auburn and present Baltimore Raven Ben Grubbs. His record was 187-115-4 with 8 area championships. He was Coach of the Year twice and head coach of the South All Star team. He coached baseball for many years and two of his teams finished second in the state playoffs. In 1995 he was selected to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. He continues to be an avid hunter and fisherman. He is a member of First Baptist Church of Eclectic and he and his wife Wanda have two daughters and 15 grandchildren. Present Elmore County Coach Norman Dean said it best. “As a former player and assistant under Coach Burt, I have seen the relationship he has fostered with players and coaches. He has been a tireless worker and friend to the school and town of Eclectic for nearly 50 years.” Of all the accolades that a coach can receive, respect may be the greatest of all. Terry Burt was so respected in Eclectic that the field was named for him several years before he retired from coaching. He was so respected throughout the state that even today his name is synonymous with the Elmore County Panthers. TODAY THE ALABAMA FOOTBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION IS PROUD TO BESTOW ITS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD UPON COACH TERRY BURT.