Family comes first for the Oxford Chargers head football coach — on and off the field.
Written by Lesley Vance Walkington | Illustrated by Abbey Edmonson
Friday night football is a family affair in the Cutcliffe household. While Oxford High School’s head football coach Chris Cutcliffe is on the field, his wife Molly is in the stands with their home team — six boys all under the age of 9. The boys love watching their daddy run up and down the sidelines, coaching the Chargers. When they’re not on the field, Chris spends time in his own backyard playing ball with his boys.
“I grew up watching my dad coach football at the University of Tennessee and later at Ole Miss,” Chris said. “I’ve wanted to coach my whole life, because of my dad and because of my mom who is a first-grade teacher. Seeing the impact that my parents had on young people is why I wanted to be a coach.”
Chris and Molly both have deep roots in Oxford. They met in the sixth grade, were sweethearts in high school and knew they wanted to marry each other one day. After Molly graduated from the University of Mississippi and Chris from UT, they tied the knot and moved to North Carolina, where Chris attended graduate school at Duke, and Molly birthed their first son. They jumped at the chance to move back to Oxford in 2011, when Chris was offered a coaching position at OHS.
“My mother was a great role model for me. She worked but made time to be there for us, and taught us to be kind and loving. I always wanted to have a big family and a lot of kids.” — Molly Cutcliffe
Fast-forward to today: With six young boys and two working parents, carving out enough family time can be challenging. But the Cutcliffes find ways to work it in.
“Sometimes it’s like a three-ring circus in our house,” Molly said. “During the school year, I juggle working part-time with dropping off and picking up the children from school and/or daycare.”
Chris works late coaching the team after school, so Molly often loads the children into their 12-passenger van (perhaps more accurately described as a bus) to go see him at practice. On the practice field, the kids have a chance to visit the players and also get to spend more time with their daddy.
“Chris tries to get home by bedtime and then reads to the kids,” Molly said. “We all love reading and that is our nightly ritual.”
The couple believe their job is to invest in other people’s lives, both on and off the field. When their children are in school, Molly provides care for patients at Oxford Treatment Center as a part-time nurse practitioner. Their family motto is the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated.
“We teach our kids that every person is valuable and worth helping and believing in,” Molly said. “We try to model kindness and let our children know that we support them.”
“My dad always says, ‘Leave a place better than you found it’ and that’s what I teach my kids.” — Chris Cutcliffe
On the Field
In his fourth season as head coach at OHS, Chris teaches his players to have integrity, fairness and discipline. Just as diligently as he coaches them to win on Friday nights, he also tries to prepare them for life after football. He believes high school athletics provide an opportunity to teach students accountability, because individuals don’t win football games, but teams do. He and his staff emphasize that to be on a team, you must learn to be accountable to the people around you.
“The coaches and I model character, integrity and responsibility to our players,” Chris said. “We make the time to have intentional conversations. We talk about honesty, having courage and offering help to a fellow teammate when it’s needed.”
One former OHS football player has raised the bar for all of those who follow. Oxford native D. K. Metcalf had 224 receptions for 3,302 yards and 49 touchdowns during his career at OHS. After graduation he played for Ole Miss — and this year he became the first former OHS Charger to be drafted to the NFL. Of course, every Charger player dreams of following in Metcalf’s footsteps.
“While it’s a noble aspiration, we remind our players how rare it is to be drafted to the NFL,” Chris said. “High school athletics plays a huge part in the overall development of our students and we are intentional about teaching the soft skills students need for success in the workplace.”
OHS Chargers have the advantage of being next door to Ole Miss. Their exposure to SEC football, its coaches and players at a high level gives the Chargers an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of football.
“Coach Matt Luke played football in my dad’s first game at Ole Miss, when he was the head coach from 1998 to 2004,” Chris said. “And when I was at Duke for grad school, I interned with Coach Luke. At that time, he was the Offensive Line Coach under my dad who has been Duke’s head coach since 2008.”
Every fall season is an exciting time for coaches and players. This year, the Chargers have eight veteran starters on both sides of the ball: two All-State players, Byron Pearson and J.J. Pegues, as well as seven All-District players. Last year was the Chargers’ first playoff berth in the more challenging 6A Division. This season, Chris hopes to build on what they learned and run deeper into the playoffs.
“The best thing about sports is that it brings people together from all different kinds of backgrounds,” Chris said. “We all become one big family and not only work hard on the field but also gather around the table to share a meal with our extended families. The relationships we are forming will last a lifetime.”
“My dad’s advice has always been, ‘Don’t ever compromise who you are as a person and what you stand for: the values you have.’ Don’t compromise the values you have in order to win. You’re going to win because of what you stand for and how you do things…doing things the right way. Don’t ever compromise that.” — Chris Cutcliffe