Class of 2011
As a little boy growing up in the Reid community of Limestone County, Mike Nave believed that one day he would make his mark in the sports world. The little boy, who would stand on the dirt road his family lived on hitting rocks with his baseball bat, would indeed have an impact on sports in this county. The 2011 Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame inductee was a star athlete at Clements High School and later as coach, led West Limestone High School to championships in football and baseball.
Nave says it is an honor to be a member of this year's induction class. "It certainly is a tremendous honor," said Nave. "This is where I was raised. I have lived in Limestone County all of my life. I never considered myself as a great player or coach. So, to be put in the category with the folks that have been inducted before me and the ones going in this year, it is quite a humbling experience." While most folks in this county may remember Nave as the football and baseball coach at West Limestone High school when the Wildcats were regularly contending for championships, he was a great athlete himself. He was a four-sport star at Clements High School earning All-State honors as a quarterback for the Colts. Nave's high school football coach Bill Graham says Nave was like a coach on the field. "Mike was always on the same page with me. He was loyal player and a good kid. I never had to worry about Mike. He always was determined to do things right," said Graham. A 1970 graduate from Clements High School, Nave says he enjoyed playing for the Colts. "I have nothing but fond memories of my high school days at Clements. Back then, playing sports was what we looked forward to doing. We couldn't wait to the next game. The coaches I played for had a great impact on my life. Coach Graham helped teach me to be a man and I was always attentive to his speeches. I learned a lot from Coach Graham and Coach (Johnny) Black."
Former high school classmate Jerry Adams remembers Nave as teammate you could always count on. "Mike was the best athlete in the school. Yet, he was someone who led by example. Mike was a tireless worker and he was the guy who tried to pick everyone up when things weren't going well for us. He was a good leader and teammate," said Adams.
Nave would earn a football scholarship to the University of North Alabama where he lettered three seasons for the Lions as an offensive lineman and special teams player. He was a starter for the Lions during his sophomore and junior seasons. Nave also played baseball while he was at UNA lettering as a catcher. He would transfer to Athens College (now Athens State University) for his senior season where he was the starting catcher for Coach Cliff Coggin and the Bears baseball team.
Nave says that college athletics allowed him to see places that normally he would have never seen. "I traveled to places in the south that had it not been for football and baseball, I would have never seen. It was thrill to travel to Birmingham and play football at Legion Field. All the smaller state schools back then were big rivals. So we had some great games with Jacksonville State, Troy State and other schools in the state. College was a great experience for me," said Nave.
His playing days over and a college diploma in hand, Nave began to seek employment as a high school coach. His search wouldn't last very long. West Limestone High School hired Nave, who was just 23 years old at the time, in January of 1976 to lead their football program and set in motion a very successful coaching career. "I didn't look at age being a factor," said Nave. "I felt like I had been groomed for coaching. I had played and learned under some very good coaches. I had a passion for learning the X's and O's of the sport. Plus, I had Coach (Ed) Bridges to lean on when I first got there. I have to give him a lot of credit for helping me. He ran our defense and was really good at making suggestions," said Nave.
The Wildcats football would record a 4-5 record during Nave's first season but would respond with an impressive 8-1 the following season. "We had some talented football players on the 1977 team," added Nave. West Limestone would win a total of 18 more games the following three seasons before Nave decided to make a career change. He left West Limestone to become the city of Athens Park and Recreation Director.
As fate would have it, Nave returned to West Limestone High in 1985 to head up the school's football and baseball programs. After going 1-9 in 1985, Wildcats were about to go on a three-year run that would culminate with a state-runner up finish in 1988. West Limestone registered back to back 8-2 seasons in 1986 and 1987 setting the stage for what would be one of the greatest seasons in West Limestone high school football history. The Wildcats would go 12-3 in 1988 while losing to Thomasville in the finals of the state playoffs. Nave says 1988 was a magical year for the community. "What a great year we had," said Nave. "People in the community were great in their support and we had a really good football team. I told our team before they took the field against Thomasville that they would be a team that no one would ever forget and they haven't. Even today when I run into folks in the community, they want to talk about our 1988 team."
While the West Limestone football team was enjoying success on the gridiron, the baseball team under the direction of Nave was about to go one step further. The Wildcats finished runner-up in the state in 1986 but the following year saw the school win a state championship. "I probably did my best coaching job ever that year. I simply stayed out of my players way," laughed Nave. "I had good pitching and had some of the best small school hitters that have ever been around here. We had an outstanding team that year.
One of Nave's star players in both sports was Michael Pressnell and he says it was Nave's positive influence on his players that led to success on the field. "Coach Nave will always hold a special place in my heart. He made us all believe we could be successful. He was an even tempered coach who got the best out of his players. His positive attitude carried over to the football and baseball fields," said Pressnell.
Nave would take the Hazel Green head football coaching job in 1996. He took over a nearly dormant program and by 1998, had won a 5A area championship. Nave was named Metro and Area Coach of the Year in 1998 as his team recorded a 9-1 regular season record. He would leave Hazel Green in 1999.
Nave says that West Limestone community will always hold a special place in his heart. "I will always cherish the years I spent at West Limestone. I moved my family there when I got the job and was able to see my two children (Beth and Bart) grow up in the West Limestone school system. I coached some great kids and hopefully, I earned some respect along the way," said Nave.