‘The Wild-Horse Rider’ honors late football coach’s legacy

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

Jim Sypult was posthumously inducted into the Methodist University Hall of Fame in 2019 after spending 19 seasons as the school’s head football coach and leaving with the most wins in school history.

Now his wife, Sharron, has published a book that features a collection of writings by Sypult about his life and Methodist football, as well as numerous tributes from his former Monarch players.

Entitled “The Wild-Horse Rider,” the book is available on Amazon for $18.98.

“It’s a unique book about a unique man,’’ Sharron Sypult said. “I think his story speaks to the heart.’’

After Coach Sypult retired from coaching and moved to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, he began to write down ideas and memories from his long career in football.

“I was impressed by the influence and impact he had on the young men,’’ said Sharron Sypult, herself a former cheerleader and college English professor, as well as a writer.

“It was an inspiring story. It left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of those players.’’

Her husband’s natural, easy style of writing and speaking led her to gather his stories, along with tributes submitted by his players following his death during a vacation to Peru in January of 2018.

“The players tell part of the story because it was their story as well,’’ she said. “You would be surprised the people who are still submitting things I didn’t have room to put in there.’’

She spent the first year of the global COVID-19 pandemic putting the book together. She also got involved in the publishing process, finding an agent to represent her and a publisher to actually produce the book.

She consulted with friends in two of her writing groups for advice on what to include in the book and how to deal with various legal issues.

One memorable aspect of the book regards a speech Sypult made during an 0-10 season. He came into the Methodist locker room during a weather delay in a game, only to hear some players griping about their teammates and the coaches.

He made an unforgettable speech about the specific kinds of players he wanted on his team.

One was what he called the wild-horse rider, the kind of person with the bravado and physical ability to take on the challenge of mounting and controlling a wild horse.

The speech became a classic among Sypult’s players through the years.

The book opens with a brief chronology of Sypult’s career, from his high school days to playing at West Virginia University to getting into coaching.

Then it bounces around, dealing with player tributes and assorted bits of Sypult’s writings and journal entries over the years.

“I tried to do it in order of importance,’’ Sharron Sypult said. “I tried to organize it in what would be an easy read.

“To me, it was a real tour de force.’’

• Former Terry Sanford and Duke football player Mark Gilbert has earned a spot on the practice squad for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Gilbert came to the Steelers as an undrafted free agent and spent training camp as the third team cornerback before being cut.

An All-ACC selection at Duke in 2017, Gilbert suffered a dislocated hip in the second game of the 2018 season and eventually decided to leave Duke early and prepare for the NFL draft. When he went unselected, he landed the chance to try out for the Steelers.

Practice squad players are actually employed by the team they are connected with, but they may be signed to join the full 53-man roster of that team or any other in the NFL.