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Monday, May 29, 2017

THOUGHTS ABOUT A MENTOR

I wanted to take some time today to share some thoughts about one of my mentors that passed way yesterday.  Coach Leon McCoy was a giant in the community of Winfield, West Virginia where he guided the Winfield Generals to glory on the gridiron. But like the best coaches, it would be a travesty to try and define him based on his win-loss record or his championships.

An article in the Charleston Gazette this morning gives a great look at his accomplishments in terms of what sportswriters and fans generally use to gauge a coach.  The writer went as far as to say, "Leon McCoy’s football coaching record at Winfield High spoke for itself, but his true legend came in weight training and conditioning."  

But this too is misleading.  Now make no mistake about it, Coach McCoy was ahead of everyone in the strength and conditioning element of athletics.  As the story mentions people came long and far to work and learn about what he was doing to make Winfield a powerhouse.

But his legacy will not be about the muscles he developed but the character and souls he developed.

I didn't play football at Winfield for Coach McCoy...I played a little basketball and baseball.  But his reach extended beyond the goal posts behind our school for so many of us.  He taught and mentored everyone he came in contact with and that included me.

As I branched out in the coaching world I would journey back home to West Virginia and to Winfield High School.  And one stop would always be the weight room -- a sure bet where I could find Coach.  And he was always genuine in asking how I was doing.  He would also always ask me "What have you learned since the last time I saw you?'

Later, during my tenure at LSU, trips back to West Virginia became less frequent so I would occasionally drop him a note and it wouldn't be long before I received one back.

This morning, my wife Sherie and I were reminiscing about Coach and all that he meant to us.  One highlight was the he and wife Betty attended our wedding despite a big Marshall football game down I-64 that night.  He thought so much of Sherie.  I remembered his words of wisdom to me that night: "Don't screw it up."  Followed by one of his classic deep belly laughs.

Coach McCoy's contributions to his legion of football players are immeasurable  -- you can see it in the success of so many.  But I'm blessed that he played a part of my life as well.