Legendary Florida high school football coach, Atmore native Carl Madison passes away

Published 5:41 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Former coaches, players remember well-known coach

Legendary Florida high school coach Carl Madison, known as one of the “Barnes Boys,” passed away on March 3 after a long illness, according to reports.

Madison, one of Atmore’s own, was inducted into the 2021 class of the Florida High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

He was a tailback in 1945-47 for legendary Escambia County High School head football coach Herbert Barnes. During the three-year span, the Blue Devils won 30 straight games, according to Atmore Advance archives.

Former players and coaches said Madison was an inspiration, and his legacy lives on to this day.

Clint Crockett, who played under Madison and authored “The Chief: Carl Madison’s Life in Football,” said the coach was a stellar football player in Atmore.
“He was really something else,” Crockett said. “Carl started playing varsity football some even in the eighth grade in Atmore. Those years were amazing for Atmore football.”

Crockett said even during that time, players would come back from serving in the Korean War and play football.

“He was going up against guys who had seen combat,” Crockett said. “Although he was smaller, he was a star on the team. He scored a lot of points. That group (Barnes Boys) he was a part of, was a legendary group of players.”

Close friend and coach Floyd Adams said through and through, Madison was an Atmore boy.

“He was an athlete here,” Adams said. “Carl was one of the best athletes and best coaches I ever knew. He had turned down opportunities to coach in Division 1 schools, and he just wanted to stay in high school because he was the boss. If he wanted to go bird hunting on Saturday, he could go bird hunting on Saturday. He didn’t want to go out recruiting somewhere. He was truly a great coach, and a great person. That’s what made him so special.”

Madison enlisted for three years in the U.S. Army, and afterward played college football at Texas Tech and Troy State Teachers College in the mid 1950s.

He coached at Ernest Ward High School in Walnut Hill, then moved to Milton and took a coaching job at a Georgia high school.

Madison joined the coaching staff at Tate High School in 1971, and won his first state title in 1980.

He won five state championships in his career, three in Florida and two in Alabama. He won back-to-back championships while at Pine Forest in Florida in 1987 and 1988 and while coaching the Jackson Academy Eagles in 2002 and 2003.

The football field at THS was renamed “Carl Madison Field” in honor of the coach.

When asked what made Madison such a successful coach, Adams and Crockett said it’d have to be outworking his opponents.

“He was smart enough to outsmart them,” Adams said. “He was a great man, and a real true friend. I’m really going to miss him.”
Crockett said he believes he was inspired by Barnes, and took the same hard-nosed approach.

“It was the no excuses that you had it within your own power to accomplish great things, and you’re capable that you had to put the work into it,” Crockett said. “I’ve heard other people talk about it. He literally would have his players in practices run the same play over and over and over until they got it right.”

Crockett added that Madison would make sure each player on offense, who had a specific job, would do it the correct way.

“He was just smart,” he said. “His teams played against great coached teams, but there was never a time his team were over matched in the coaching position. They always felt like they had a plan, and if they executed it, they’d have a chance to win.”

Ronnie Cloud, who played for Madison and even officiated a game with the legendary coach, said the legendary coach had a way of inspiring the team to play better.

Crockett said he was privileged to see a different side of Madison the 20-plus years after he played for him.

“We were all really scared of him,” he said. “We didn’t really see the compassionate side of him.”
Crockett said many a time Madison would help players and give them rides home after practices.

“He told me there were a lot of players he had a special bond to,” Crockett said. “He cared about the young men, but he couldn’t show that. He really kept that within himself. I think it was something that as players we realized that he had that side of him. He was a complicated man. When I decided to write a book, I thought who was the most interesting person I’d ever known. It took me 2 seconds to decide it was Carl Madison.”

Adams said Madison will be missed.
“I’ve known him my whole life,” Adams said. “Back in those days in Atmore, everybody knew everybody. He will be missed, not only as a coach, but as a person within this community.”

A funeral for Madison will be held next Mon., March 11, at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cantonment, Fla. Visitation will be from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. with funeral services beginning at 3 p.m.

Crockett said people are coming from all over the country, and the world to get back to this funeral.
“It just speaks to the impact he had,” he said.