By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Bill Courtney is known for coaching football, appearing in an Academy Award-winning documentary and running a lumber business in Memphis.
He’s also an author, but it wasn’t easy.
“I wrote 18,000 words and literally chunked them in the garbage,” Courtney said during a book signing at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore on Wednesday.
The book deal came in the wake of “Undefeated,” a 2011 documentary that follows Courtney and the Manassas High School Tigers through a football season.
The businessman, who volunteered to coach the team, repeatedly stressed and illustrated the importance of character and discipline, as well as sacrificing one’s self for the team.
The result was a playoff appearance for the Tigers, and a remarkable movie about the relationship between the coach and his players.
In addition to winning an Oscar, the movie won fans around the country. It was a natural step to write a book, even if it led to Courtney’s garbage can moment.
He went so far as to call his publisher to find out how to give the advance money back. After some give-and-take, Courtney went back to work with a new plan.
“Against the Grain: A Coach’s Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love” isn’t a biography. Rather, it’s an examination of 14 tenets that Courtney considers crucial to success. They include commitment, service and leadership.
“For example, Chapter 6 is civility,” he said. “How we treat those we oppose says more about us than our opinions do.”
He uses examples from people he’s met to illustrate the success principles. They could be friends, family members, business associates, politicians or Manassas High players.
“It takes the focus off me and shows how the tenets apply to their stories and through their eyes,” he said.
It’s been a whirlwind since the book was released in May. He called it “three weeks of nuttiness” that featured trips to New York to appear on Fox News and a stop in Seattle for a webcast with Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.
Wednesday’s visit provided the chance to catch up with buddies from college, Tony Gaines and John Quaka, both of Tupelo. The men brought their children, who became fans of Courtney from watching “Undefeated.”
“We watched it and enjoyed it. It’s very inspirational,” Gaines said. “Now, we’re looking forward to reading his book.”