Former fastest man in nation Forbes has no intentions to slow down, 42 years into coaching career

Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 5:34 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - For 42 years and counting, Godby High School’s boys track and field coach Jesse Forbes has molded athletes and send them off to college.

His energy level today is the same as when he started.

”My plan was to play professional football,” Forbes said, “But God had another plan.”

Forbes went to Florida State after winning back-to-back state titles in 1972-73 in the 100 mete dash at Leon High School, which included posting the fastest time in the nation. He also won the 220m state championship in ’72.

“Jim Long, who had just graduated from college, ended up being a mentor and role model for me in high school along with the head coach,” he recalled.

Some people hoped the man who posted the fastest time in the nation that year would go to FAMU; but he hurt his right knee is freshman year.

“Everybody in Tallahassee was sort of upset with me because I got hurt and I went to the wrong school,” Forbes said, laughing.

Forbes says he was quiet in high school and college: His shyness stayed around until he began coaching football and track at Godby.

“The more I got into my job,” Forbes said, “The more I started opening up and started talking more and getting to know the kids and making sure they do the right thing.”

So far, Forbes has led five state championship teams and, up until recently, he would take time to challenge his best sprinters.

“They only got one chance,” Forbes said. “The last person I ran against, we ran the 40 and I ran a 4.15. I’m not going to say any names because I don’t want to embarrass him, but that was the last time I challenged my track guys.”

In 2015, the field at Godby was named in his honor.

“I noticed they had the signed covered up there above the scoreboard,” Forbes recalled. “I said, ‘This must be coming.’”

After four decades of coaching, Forbes has a message for anyone looking to coach; “It doesn’t matter where you coach. You get attached to these kids and they look up to you and that’s your goal. Always treat them with respect and you’ll earn respect back.”

And of course, he has a message for the kids, too.

”Pants up. No profanity. Behave when you’re out in public. You don’t have to change the way you when you’re around your friends. Be you and still hang out with your friends.”

But the state titles and bragging rights are small compared to his greatest joy.

”When those kids walk across that stage with their diploma, and those that get an opportunity to go to college and be successful in life come back in 10 years and say, ‘Hey coach, how are you doing? Thank you for everything you have done for me.‘”

Forbes is in the FSU Hall of Fame for track and field. He says he feels great and has no plans to retire anytime soon.

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