By Phil Anastasia
Zack Valentine said he began preparing for the end of his coaching career at the start of his coaching career.
"I said I would do it for one year," Valentine said of taking over as head coach of the Woodbury football program in 2002. "Every year I was like, 'Am I going to do it?'"
Valentine has decided to retire after 11 seasons as Woodbury's head coach. He told players, parents and others at the team's annual post-season banquet on Monday night.
"I enjoyed this run, it was a great run," Valentine said. "I'm ready to step back."
Valentine's teams were 82-37 during his tenure. His 2009 team won the South Jersey Group 1 title and his 2003 and 2012 teams reached the sectional title game.
His 2012 team went 10-2, won the Colonial Conference Patriot Division title and lost to two undefeated teams --- South Jersey Group 2 champion West Deptford and South Jersey Group 1 champion Penns Grove.
"I tried to teach these kids to win ball games but also to learn how to win in life," Valentine said. "I wanted them to learn something that would be of value to them for the rest of their lives, that they could use to be good fathers, good husbands, good people."
Paulsboro coach Glenn Howard, whose teams regularly battled Woodbury in the Colonial Patriot and in South Jersey Group 1, said Valentine's retirement was a big loss for South Jersey football.
"He's one of my favorite people in the whole coaching profession in South Jersey," Howard said. "He's a class guy. We had so many tremendous games through the years.
"He turned out a lot of great players and he is the kind of guy who cares about each and every one of his players on a personal level."
Valentine said he was fortunate to have great support from the Woodbury administration and a veteran coaching staff that included long-time coaches such as Butch Gale, Willie Murray, Al Mailahn and Jimmer Bundy, among others.
"I was so lucky to have great assistant coaches," Valentine said. "I can't say anything about what I did without giving them the accolades."
Valentine, 55, plans to remain at Woodbury as a health and physical education teacher. He took over the football program before the 2002 season after six years as an assistant under former coach Jim Boyd.
Valentine was a linebacker at East Carolina University and was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the 1979 draft. He spent three years with the Steelers and played with the Eagles in 1982 and 1983.
Valentine earned a Super Bowl ring with Pittsburgh.
"Football is part of my life but it's not my life," Valentine said. "I want to sit back and enjoy some other things in life."
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at email@example.com or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.