‘Its’ been a great run’ 

By on May 18, 2024

“I am, somebody.” Coach Prince celebrating his 50th year in coaching in 2022. (Credit First Flight High School Nighthawk News)

After more than a half century of coaching, First Flight’s Jim Prince retires

By Kip Tabb | Outer Banks Voice

Coach Jim Prince is in his element. He’s standing in the middle of the First Flight High School gym floor holding a microphone and chanting, in his trademark raspy voice, “I am, somebody.”

The first time he says it, there is cheering from the kids. The second time, the cheering is louder. The third time, they begin chanting with him, and as he repeats that mantra, the sound of the student body gets louder and louder.

It is not only the kids that are affected by the speech. Now the Superintendent of Poquoson City Schools in Virginia, Arty Tillett was the principal of First Flight High School for 10 years. “That speech…it’s something to see,” Tillett said. “It’ll make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.”

Prince is retiring at the end of the school year after 52 years in coaching in a career that included working in the college ranks and high schools in Virginia before coming to First Flight High 15 years ago. He also taught PE with an emphasis on weight training and will be replaced as First Flight football coach Jimmy Wills for the 2025 season.

For Prince, “I am somebody” is a message that personifies his belief in success and where it starts.

“The two most powerful words are ‘I am,’ because if you want to become something, the first thing you’ve got to tell yourself is that you’re that something—whether I am smart, I am fast, I am happy,” he said.

He had seen Reverend Jesse Jackson, who wrote the words, deliver the speech in the 1970s. But it was when he was coaching at James Madison University (JMU) in the 1980s, that he understood how effective it could be.

“The man that I coached with at JMU my last five years [Head Coach Joe Purzycki], he was greatest speaker I’ve ever known personally. He did [the speech] once for the team,” he recalled.

In those 52 years, he has coached future NFL players, one of them, Charles Haley, is in the Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. He has touched the lives of thousands of young men and kids, and that loyalty was on display at his last First Flight varsity football home game last October.

Coach Prince with Charles Haley at the Football Hall of Fame. (Courtesy Jim Prince)

“The last game here, my daughters [Meredith and Caitlin] called people in. We had about 400 people that had played for me in high school, and that was fantastic,” Prince said.

Not all of the players who wanted to be there were able to attend. Prince told the Voice that Braxton Hughes “was my quarterback for three years here…He’s one of the most amazing young men,” was at Ferrum College playing one of his last games of a six-year college career and completing his work for a Master’s Degree. “Coach, I want to thank you for changing my life… I want to say thank you for being a mentor of mine on and off the field,” Hughes wrote on Facebook.

Coach Prince with Braxton Hughes, three year quarterback at First Flight High School. (Credit: Payton Gaddy/Shorelines Yearbook)

A few weeks earlier, there had been a gathering at JMU with his players from his time there. “The people that played for me at JMU, played 36 to 52 years ago. That night, we had 140 players that had played for me. When I walked away from that I was so proud, the loyalty of those guys to come. Gary Clark, all pro receiver for the Redskins, he drove down from Northern Virginia just to come in and do that,” he said.

Prince had gone to Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, VA, hoping for a career in the NFL as a quarterback,” but I couldn’t see over the offensive line. So they moved me to wide receiver,” he noted.

In his last game, he made a leaping grab of a pass for a 33-yard gain. Later in the game, while in punt coverage, he was blocked and blew his knee out. “I was in a cast for six months,” he said.

Last catch of a stellar college career. Wide receiver Jim Prince stretches out for a 33 yard gain and a first down. In the next series, in punt coverage, a block damaged his knee and he spent six months in a cast. (Courtesy Jim Prince)

If he couldn’t play football, he could coach, and Shepherd University Coach Walter Barr told him that JMU was just starting a football program. That was 1972.

“I started on defense, coached the defensive secondary. Then after nine years they moved me to offense, and I coached quarterbacks and running backs,” he said.

The program started slowly—his first few years at JMU he also coached wrestling, a sport he had never participated in. He was successful at it though.

“My first year we won the college conference championship, and I was coach of the year,” he said.

JMU was getting some good players, including eventual NFL Hall of Famer Charles Haley and wide receiver Gary Clark, who played 11 years in the NFL and is in the Washington Commanders Ring of Honor.

Haley, Prince recalls was, “naturally strong, naturally fast” and Clark, “hated it when you didn’t get him the ball.”

And they had one thing in common. “As far as accepting coaching, both of them listened like they were a little leaguers,” Prince said.

Coaching, he said, is teaching. “You can’t separate the two.”

Along the way Prince has managed to coach and teach quite a number of sports.

“I coached girls’ basketball because my best friend was the varsity basketball girls coach,” he said. “I coached track my last year at Ocean Lakes [High School in Virginia Beach] because the track coach had gotten ill…We won the state championship.”

Coach Prince and his wife Jacqui. (Photo courtesy Jim Prince)

“It’s been a great run,” he said, reflecting on his career. “You can make a million dollars… but it’s nothing like the legacy of what you leave behind. Ending the 52 years, I can face it with a strength of knowing that there’s not a kid that I ever coached that they didn’t know that I cared about them.”



Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).



  • Tim Cafferty

    Jim Prince,

    The best we’ve ever seen!

    Have a great run in your retirement. Thank you for shaping my sons into great individuals.

    Saturday, May 18 @ 7:37 pm
  • Kathy Harcourt

    You are Somebody! Love and cherish our time teaching together at Ocean
    Lakes! Retirement ain’t a bad gig!! Love you JP!

    Saturday, May 18 @ 8:25 pm
  • John Farrelly

    Best guy in the world. Would give you the shirt off of his back, no questions asked. Proud to call him friend and brother. He’s about the kids, always has been. First class all the way.

    Saturday, May 18 @ 8:38 pm
  • Just a mom

    Congratulations on such a wonderful contributing life. And thank you for your dedication, heart, passion and spirit to all the kids who knew you! My daughters weren’t in football but they were in the weight room and PE and they felt like they mattered to you. I heard it in their voices and stories about school and “Coach Prince”(what a fitting name for such an honorable man). You mattered to them. Thank you. Hope you find new ways to share your gifts and enjoy the next endeavor!

    Saturday, May 18 @ 9:59 pm
  • John Towler

    I’m sorry my son won’t have a chance to learn from you and play for you at the high school level, but he enjoyed your summer camps. Those helped instill a love for the game in him and got him excited to play in middle school. You are an excellent coach, mentor and motivator. Enjoy your time away from the sidelines. Maybe a follow-up career in broadcasting local games?

    Sunday, May 19 @ 12:55 pm