FREEPORT, Fl. (WJHG/WECP) - Walking into Jimmy Ray Stephens' man cave is like walking into a time capsule of Florida football history.
42 years in coaching; a state championship with Fort Walton Beach, a national championship with the Gators...the only thing left?
A professional championship and a last hurrah with Steve Spurrier.
"We stayed in touch over the years and have a good working relationship and we really had a goal set to win another championship together."
Riding off into the sunset with the Orlando Apollos, 20 miles from his childhood home. It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?
"It was kind of tough to say goodbye to the people at Walton High School. I had a lot of questions when he called and offered me the job. I wanted to find out what the pay scale was, what kind of health benefits we had. You get paid for a full year, of course, and benefits for a full year, but you only had to work four months. I said, 'that's a pretty good deal!'"
It started with a win, booming TV ratings, and six more wins.
It ended with a blindside hit.
"One day you're a successful professional football coach and the next day you're unemployed."
Stephens has plenty of play and numbers committed to memory. Add 4-2-19 to the list.
"We were on the practice field and the General Manager walks out and says, 'hey, they just pulled the plug on the league man. Let's all go in, get our stuff, and get out of here.' Tuesday we we found out and Wednesday is the last day we got paid. Insurance goes until the end of the month."
What's next? Everybody needs an answer, quick.
"A lot of coaches across the league, a lot of football players that'll have to go find other occupations if they don't make it in the NFL."
No more checks. No more coverage. No more camaraderie.
"We traveled together. We lived together. We ate three meals a day together. You really develop that family and it was really crushing for a lot of people."
Some Apollos like quarterback Garrett Gilbert have already taken aim at new opportunities. What's next for Jimmy Ray?
"There's no telling. Hell, I may go sell boats! (laughs)"
Or maybe not.
There's still a little space left in this room. If nothing else, the last few months have helped him complete it.
"Relationships is what's it's all about. High school, college, pros. The relationships that you make during that journey are memories of a lifetime. And I'll never forget this one season that we had in the AAF."