A legend’s legacy

Looking into Freedom graduate James Covert’s career

In over 100 years of the University of Pittsburgh playing football, only ten players have played to a level deemed high enough for their numbers to be retired. One of which is Jim Covert, who grew up in Conway and played football for Freedom from 1974-1977.
In his career Covert played on the Freedom 1977 team that went undefeated in the regular season, Pitt team’s with Dan Marino as well as “the best offensive line he ever played with,” as Covert called it and even won a Super Bowl in 1985 with the Chicago Bears. Despite achieving all this excellence throughout his career, some of his best years came at Freedom.
“Senior year was the best year of my life,” Covert said. The year he was referring to was 1977, in which Freedom went 10-0 in the regular season, winning the Bulldog’s last Conference Championship.
Despite the 1977 team’s success, Covert was quick to note that he didn’t always have the same level of success. In his sophomore year of high school, Covert started on both offensive and defensive line, which was a rarity at the time. Then, in his junior year, a coaching change introduced him to a coach that helped him become a great player.
“The greatest thing Chuck Lucidore ever taught me was that I had to understand and believe how good I could actually be. Coach Lucidor had a great confidence and swagger about him, and I believe that people gravitated towards that way of thinking when they were around him,” Covert said. Covert’s junior year was Lucidore’s first year as the coach of the football team. Although his junior season was largely a transition year to the new coach, it didn’t inhibit Covert from gaining notoriety around the area. The success of the 1977 team even further solidified his place as the high-class recruit that he was.
Although Covert didn’t end up at Clemson like his childhood idol at Freedom, JD Haglan, he was very successful at the University of Pittsburgh. During his time at Pitt, he blocked for a future hall of fame Quarterback, Dan Marino, while being a part of some of Pitt’s best teams in their history. The best thing to happen to Covert at Pitt, however, was the opportunity to work with the offensive line coach, Joe Moore. Covert credits Moore with preparing him for the NFL better than anybody ever could
“Joe Moore was a coach that had a great impact on me. He made it so that, when I got to the NFL to play for the Bears, I was way ahead of the other new guys and even some of the players that had been around the system a while,” Covert said.
In 1983, Covert was a first round draft pick when the Chicago Bears drafted him with the sixth overall pick. Covert played seven seasons with the Bears, however, none were better than the 1984-1985 season in which his team won the Super Bowl and he was able to win the Offensive Lineman of the Year award.
“[The 1984-1985 season] really compares to 1977 as one of the best years of my life. Coach Ditka preached a team-first mentality, and everybody bought in and played for the guys around them. I think that really helped us achieve what we did that year,” Covert said. During Covert’s career, the Bears led the team in rushing in all seven seasons, with Covert being one of the main components of the line.
James “Jimbo” Covert may have started out as kid growing up on Catherine Drive in Conway, but through hard work and a team oriented-mentality, the Freedom High School graduate became one of the greatest NFL offensive linemen of his generation.
His advice to today’s Freedom football players who look to follow in his footsteps is, “When you guys get the great coach that you deserve, listen. Let the coach help you to become the best you can be. Football is about much more than winning; it’s about hard work and sacrifice. It sounds like a cliché, but football players live those clichés,” Covert said.