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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Brainerd head coach Tyrus Ward walks the sidelines at Red Bank High School on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. Red Bank hosted Brainerd for a second-round 3A playoff game.

This story was updated at 1:25 p.m. on April 26, 2021.

Barely more than a month after taking over the Tyner Academy football program, Tyrus Ward has resigned, citing an unexpected career opportunity that has come up.

"I understand the timing isn't ideal because you never want to do anything short-term, but something has come up unexpectedly that would be an opportunity for me and my family," Ward said. "It was a very tough decision leaving Tyner because that was a job I was excited about. The toughest part is leaving those kids who I had already gotten to know at Tyner."

Ward added that he could not yet elaborate on where he would be coaching next. He had not yet begun spring practice with the Rams, but workouts are underway.

"Things like this happen sometimes and obviously the timing of it isn't ideal for us," Tyner principal Gerald Harris said. "I hate it for the kids. It's a hard pill to swallow for them.

"We'll get through it. We'll start by calling some of the guys we interviewed previously and begin the process over again. Obviously we need to move quickly but we want to make sure we find the right person to lead our program."

A former all-state football player and All-America track athlete at Brainerd High — where he won a national title in the 400-meter hurdles — Ward played football collegiately at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, transferring to the Mocs after East Tennessee State discontinued its program in 2003.

The 36-year old Ward had built a reputation for taking on rebuilding projects and turning around struggling programs as a prep coach. He guided two downtrodden prep teams to the playoffs shortly after taking them over and was inheriting a Tyner program with an established winning tradition.

Ward had taken over at Tyner for legendary former coach Wayne Turner, who had coached the Rams for 30 years, having won 10 or more games 11 times. Turner's teams also earned 16 region titles and reached the playoffs 27 times, appearing in three state championship games and winning the 1997 2A title.

Turner resigned after last season and is now an assistant at East Hamilton.

Ward coached at Brainerd — his alma mater — for the past four seasons, taking over a program that was on a 12-game losing skid. He rebuilt the Panthers into a playoff team by his second season and last fall guided them to an eight-win season — their most victories since 2009 — which ended in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.

Brainerd's eight wins last season matched the combined total by the program for the four seasons before Ward took over.

Ward began his coaching career as an assistant at Brainerd, then worked at Red Bank before returning to his alma mater for a second assistant's stint. He also coached Brainerd's girls' basketball team from 2013 to 2015.

He then took over as head coach at Nashville's Whites Creek, a program that had struggled through 27 consecutive losses before his arrival in 2015. With Ward as coach, the Cobras snapped one of the state's longest losing streaks in their third game of his first season. He directed that team to three wins, the most by the program in five years.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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