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Tarboro coordinators are fit for current title run

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Tarboro defensive coordinator Andrew Harding, left, and offensive coordinator Ricky Babb on Tuesday at the high school.

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BY JESSIE H. NUNERY
Sports Editor

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

RALEIGH — As they watch their respective units perform at school-record paces this season, Tarboro offensive coordinator Ricky Babb and defensive coordinator Andrew Harding are also pleased with their own personal statistics.

Within the past three years, the duo has undergone dramatic weight loss that has them feeling physically and mentally at their best as Tarboro bids for the school's fifth state championship at 4 p.m. Saturday in Raleigh's Carter-Finley Stadium in the NCHSAA 1-AA state title game against Mount Airy.

Their initial reasons for the change differed slightly, but there is no denying the results.

In recent years, Babb had been as heavy as 328 pounds.

Harding peaked at 305 pounds.

Now, Babb weighs 226 pounds and Harding is down to 178 pounds. Both underwent weight loss surgery, but in true coaching form, it isn't enough to just be in the game. Both are winning and plan to win this game.

"It's not easy, because it's a lifestyle change," said Babb, who along with Harding, joined the Vikings staff in 2008 for the school's first of six state title game appearances under head coach Jeff Craddock. "I was very committed once I was released and knew I wasn't going back. I want to see all four of my children graduate from high school and see that they're on their own. I didn't want to make an early exit."

Babb, 41, had concerns about such goals prior to having surgery in December, 2014. One day he began thinking about his family history which includes a brother who died at age 23 and a grandfather who suffered a massive heart attack at age 48.

"I needed to do something," said Babb, whose offense has a Tarboro single-season record 733 points heading into Saturday’s game. "I was starting to have borderline diabetic problems. I knew I needed to do something different with a newborn at home who was only a year and a half."

The genesis of Harding's change came roughly a year after Babb's surgery. Harding said he often took 15-20 ibuprofen on a daily basis to deal with headaches and body aches. After seeing Babb's progress and that of Carl Phipps, a custodian at Tarboro High, Harding quizzed both at the same time.

"Is there ever a day you regret the surgery?" Harding asked.

Both quickly answered no.

"I would have done it 5-10 years ago if I had known," Babb replied.

Feeling more fit and energetic, Babb spent the period after Hurricane Matthew painting every room in his home while waiting for schools to re-open due to flooding.

He then puzzled his wife, Misty, even more by staining the deck of the home they share with children —-  Helena, 17, Troy 14, Savannah 11, and Luke, 5 —- during spring break.

Babb decreased his weight to as low as 195 pounds at one point, and Harding said an opposing coach came up to him and asked, "Is everything OK with coach Babb?"

Harding, who initially coached the offensive line and called plays, is now able to direct his defense -- which is allowing a program-low 4.21 points per game to go along with six shutouts -- actively.

"Now, I can participate," Harding said. "Before, I had to say, 'Do this for me.'"

Both coaches said they look to Craddock as an example of physical fitness. Craddock is known for his pre-dawn workouts and healthy lifestyle. Before hiring him, Craddock said he always thought Babb would be a good fit for his program. Harding could be a rare assistant to win state titles as an offensive and defensive coordinator.

"I know they weren't happy and were trying to stay in some physical shape," Craddock said. "I know it's not easy, but they made the decision, and I'm prooud of them."

Saturday, they'll put on Tarboro tops, with a preferred visor or hat. Their pants will be much smaller. Babb now sports a size 34 waist --down from a 44 --- and wears extra large shirts even though he can fit into a large.

Harding's waist is down to a 32 from a 42, and he can wear medium or large shirts depending on the brand.

At 35 years old, Harding is confident he will never see 200 pounds again.

He gave away those clothes and never wants to see them again.

"This is the first time I've lost weight for myself," Harding said. "In my psych evaluation they asked, 'Why are you losing weight, because if you lose it for someone else, you will gain it back.' I did it for me."

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