To say Joey Tompkins and Ben Burton are familiar with each other would be an understatement.
Not only are they “walking distance” neighbors in Winona, but Tompkins coached Burton in High School, and hired him as an assistant coach seven years ago at J.Z. George.
Now, he has pulled the trigger on Burton again, hiring him as defense coordinator at Winona High School.
Tompkins, who will be entering his seventh season as head coach of Winona this season, said adding Burton to his staff was an easy decision.
“We know each other and he knows my philosophies,” Tompkins said of Burton. “You want new ideas, but you also need people to understand the head coach’s responsibilities.”
Burton has certainly earned his stripes there. After six years as a head coach at JZG, Burton said he will be a better assistant coach than he ever has been.
“You really don’t know what it’s like to be a head coach until you’ve sat in that chair,” Burton admitted. “You think you do, but you don’t. There is so much more that goes into it than coaching football.
“It’s really about coaching kids and helping them to be better not only as football players, but people,” he said.
Tompkins and Burton first crossed paths at Weir High School where Burton was an offensive lineman and Tompkins was defensive coordinator. Junior Graham, the current head coach at Winona Christian School, was the head coach at Weir at the time.
“He played a little defense for us, but offense was where we really needed him,” Tompkins said of Burton. “I would have to say he is one of the best two offensive lineman I’ve coached.”
After a year at Holmes Community College, Burton hung up his playing shoes and really didn’t think he was going to be a coach.
But while a student at Mississippi State, he dropped by Eupora High School where Graham was then the head coach, and Tompkins just happened to be an assistant. The next thing Burton knew he was helping a couple of days a week and helping coach from the press box on game nights.
“It just kind of went from there,” Burton said.
Tompkins had gotten out of coaching for a year, before returning to the sideline as offensive coordinator at Eupora.
“I think coaching really got into him,” Tompkins said of Burton.
The two parted ways, but after Tompkins’ first year as head coach at J.Z. George, Burton was looking for a job and he was hired as an assistant coach for the Jaguars.
After Tompkins left for the Winona job the following year, Burton was promoted to head coach at JZG.
Burton said his move was prompted by several things, being close to his home being at the top of the list. But he also said he was looking forward to working with Tompkins said.
“He has one of the most successful coaches in small school football,” Burton said. “I’m looking forward to it.”