- Associated Press - Monday, July 2, 2012

ELLISVILLE, MISS. (AP) - Ray Perkins leans back in his chair, enthusiastically talking football in his Mississippi office at tiny Jones County Junior College.

A pair of palm trees stands in the heat outside _ a dead giveaway that this is a long way from Giants Stadium and the bright lights of the NFL. But for the 70-year-old Perkins, it’s football paradise.

“It fits like a glove,” Perkins said. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

That may surprise some people.

Perkins led the New York Giants from 1979 to 1982, the Alabama Crimson Tide from 1983 to ‘86 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1987 to 1990. He’s also known for developing assistants who went onto distinguished NFL careers _ including Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel.

But it’s been 20 years since he was a head coach _ and more than 10 years since he was a full-time coach of any kind.

And now he has resurfaced in this junior college in a town of about 4,500 people in the southeastern corner of Mississippi. The facilities are decent _ but more on the level of a solid high school program than anything he was used to during his days in the NFL and Southeastern Conference.

Crennel understands the reasons his former boss is in Ellisville.

The head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs said he was initially surprised Perkins would get back into coaching, but that in a lot of ways the move made sense.

“Once that coaching gets in your blood it’s hard to get it out,” Crennel said. “Sounds like to me he’s happy and he’s excited, so I’m certainly excited for him.”

Crennel said Perkins has never been afraid to take a chance or pull an unorthodox move, and that’s a big reason for his success. His first meeting with Perkins came at a restaurant in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 1980, after the two were introduced by mutual friends in the coaching profession.

“We talked about football, but we also talked about life,” Crennel said. “At the end of the meeting, he told me he didn’t have a job, but was impressed and would keep me in mind for the future. A year later, he hired me with the Giants. He wasn’t afraid to go with a hunch or a good feeling.”

At this stage of his coaching career, Perkins said the perceived status of a job isn’t important. And he immediately had a good feeling about the work environment at Jones County.

“It gives me an opportunity to have a little meaning, to hopefully teach something to these young people and also learn some things from them as well,” Perkins said. “These are two or three of the most important years in their life. The passion I’ve had for football has never wavered, so I really jumped at this chance.”

Perkins lives in Hattiesburg, which is about a 30-minute drive from Ellisville. He’s been in a semi-retired state for the past decade, dividing his time between football fundraisers, a small commercial real estate business and a healthy dose of golf. He’s also got two daughters _ ages 14 and 8 _ who taught him at least one important part of the new college football landscape: Text messaging.

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