August 28, 2009 will be a day I will not soon not forget. I woke up around 6 a.m. and drove to Lincoln High School for morning workouts. A routine of mine since 2004. This day was a Friday. This Friday was different because it was one of those ten guaranteed Friday's. Every high school in Alabama is guaranteed ten high school football games and what they do with those games determines whether or not they get to play in the sudden death format called the playoffs.
I arrived at the school shortly after 7 a.m. and parked in my normal spot; behind my friend and head football coach Keith Howard. Coach, as he was most known by, had brought me on as weightlifting coach and chaplain in 2004. Coach and I shared similar passions, Jesus and football, and believe me it was in that order.
We spent many hours talking about our faith, football, and the future. He and I shared another characteristic in common; we were both dreamers. He dreamed of building a state of the art facilities and I dreamed of building up those who would believe to become fully devoted followers of Christ.
This Friday, as I said earlier, was different not because it was our first game of the 2009 season. It was different because "it", the dream, was complete. Lincoln High School, under Coach's supervision, had just finished building a state of the art high school facility. What was most amazing about this dream was that it was first drawn on a napkin in a place where Coach dreamed best, Waffle House.
Coach's order was always the same, Diet Coke; because they didn't sell his drink of choice Diet Dr. Pepper, pork chop, eggs over easy, toast, and Worcestershire Sauce. I can still see and hear him talking, drawing on napkins, or on one of the million manila folders he owned. He did some of his best dreaming their.
Our conversation that morning was not much different than other mornings. We talked about our opponent "The Etowah Blue Devils", star recruits such as DJ Howard and Branton Hall, and as always Coach asked me about the church I pastored, Eureka Baptist Church. We talked about the new field and recounted stories past days.
I came back later that day with lunch from R & B BBQ. Coach and I shared a rack of ribs and a Diet Dr.Pepper. He was excited, but nervous, as time was drawing near to load the buses and head to Etowah.
We arrived at Etowah about two and a half hours prior to kickoff. We went through warm-ups and pregame preparations. Coach was beginning to feel some discomfort in his chest but pushed forward. However, during the first half this discomfort grew.
As we went in a half-time the paramedics examined him and encouraged him to go to one of Etowah's hospital for precautionary reasons. Coach agreed and I agreed to travel with him. I spoke with him before leaving and asked if there was anything that I needed to do; to which he responded; "call Lisa and tell her everything OK." I honored his requested and called Lisa, Coach's wife, to apprise her of his situation.
As we left Etowah field all was well. However, this all changed within five minutes as the ambulance driver was directed to divert to the nearest hospital. Coach had taken a turn for the worst. We arrived at Riverview Hospital in Gadsden within a few minutes. Doctors, nurses, and all available personnel worked on Coach but to no avail.
Coach had been called by His Lord to come home. Why now? Why so young? Only heaven knows such answers. Much has changed since Coach's death. I still struggle with my morning's. I often catch myself driving to school to speak with my friend and then remember that it will have to wait.