Mark Lang has been a coach of track, football and life.
The retired McComb High School science teacher and track coach has been well known for taking in students from rough homes — and sometimes no home at all — and helping them succeed in life.
His efforts, never publicized but well known throughout the community, made him the ideal recipient of the McComb Exchange Club’s Book of Golden Deed award, which was presented Thursday during the club’s Christmas banquet at Pike National Bank.
“I just do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Lang said. “I see kids who sometimes literally have nowhere to go.”
Steve Warren, a club member whose wife Lou was a teacher at McComb alongside Lang, noted the honor goes to “someone who has done good service over the years but has not gotten recognition for it.”
“And their service, they didn’t do it to get recognition. They did it because they saw a need, it was their duty and they did it,” Warren said.
Warren said Lang epitomizes that.
“I don’t know how many he helped or how many he kept but he did this over an extended number of years,” Warren said. “He’s still helping in this same way today.”
Lang first became interested in running as a student at South Pike High School.
“He did not play any sports but his senior year he got into running and he foud that he could outrun the track guys and some of the football players. Ever since then he’s enjoyed running,” Warren said.
Lang attended Southwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi, where he received a bachelor’s degree in science and biology.
After college, he took a job as a science teacher at McComb High School before becoming a coach.
“He was influenced to work with young people by his father, who worked with young people,” Warren said.
In 1982, then-head football coach asked Lang to become an assistant coach. In addition to coaching football, Lang also became the track coach.
During his time with the football team, McComb won state championships in 1984 and in 2000 and as track and cross country coach, McComb won five state titles.
“Even having to do all of these coaching duties he taught every science course that was offered, including some college prep science courses,” Warren said.
Warren said Pike County Youth Court Judge John Price asked Lang to “help out with some kids who were having some problems at home,” and Lang obliged.
“It just wasn’t a good place for them to stay at home,” Warren said. “It was just where they could not function right if they stayed at home.”
“Judge Price mentioned he brought me one in handcuffs and said, ‘You keep him for the weekend.’ This is the kind of thing I run into occasionally,” Lang said.
Lang would spend time with them and they’d go camping or on other excursions.
“Later he began housing kids and most of these were athletes at McComb,” Warren said. “When issues came up Judge Price would help ... but few issues came up because most of these kids were honorable and needed help and they knew this might have been their last leg.”
Lang attended the meeting with Terrance Turner, a successful business owner who benefitted from Lang’s guidance.
“I helped put Terrance through Millsaps,” Lang said. “you know how expensive that is. I guess that’s why I’m so broke.”
Lang retired from McComb and now works for Jewel Sumner High School in Louisiana, where he still coaches, teaches and drives a school bus.
“He’s still helping those in need and is quietly setting the example of a Golden Deeds recipient,” Warren said. “I always felt like he was the kind of guy you could always count on. ... He was always doing his job. He wasn’t in it to glorify himself. And he always did his duty without reward.”
Warren’s wife Lou said commended Lang for his dedication.
“He’s just a great, great teacher,”she said. “He taught all of our children. I appreciate him very much.”
“He was just a great teacher,” said former assistant principal Sammy Clark.
“I enjoyed it. I still do,” Lang said.