Hugh Pepper was an outstanding athlete before he became a head football coach

Hugh Pepper was an outstanding athlete before he became a head football coach

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Hugh Pepper began his coaching career in 1962 as an assistant coach under Tom Ferrell at D'Iberville High School. A year later, he was named head coach at Ocean Springs, leading the Greyhounds to 191 victories in 28 seasons.

The Vaughn, Mississippi native was an All-American running back at Mississippi Southern where he averaged 8.2 yards a carry.   Besides running with the pigskin, Pepper could throw bullets from the mound, possessing a 94 miles per hour fast ball.

In a 1992 interview with WLOX, coach Pepper said he chose pro baseball over pro football.  He would go on to play 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, three years in the major leagues as a middle reliever.

Coach Pepper said, "I faced all the greats in baseball down through the years.  Aaron and Mays and Ted Williams.  The great Stan Musial.  I got every opportunity in the world."

Pepper says coming out of college, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL offered him a 3-year, $100,000 contract. He decided to sign with the Pirates, but said he even had a chance to play in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"The Steelers got the first pick, "said Pepper.  "I was drafted No. 3 as a junior behind the Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Ladner from Notre Dame, but he was from Pittsburgh and Mr. Rooney went on to say, now we know you're better than Ladner, but we drafted him No. 1. He said we will pay you $15,000 a year.  Well I was making almost that much being a number 9 or number 10 pitcher with the Pirates."

Coach Pepper said he loved Ocean Springs.

"One of the finest things to ever happen to me really is to come here and be with all these great fans and great community and it's a wonderful little town that I raised by family and met my wife here, "stated Pepper. And I hope this is where I'm going to cross the great river one of these days in Ocean Springs.

Visitation will be Thursday at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church from 11a.m. until 1 p.m...followed by a mass.   Burial will follow in Crestlawn Memorial Park.

Copyright 2018 WLOX.  All Rights Reserved.