On David Coates. . .
Northwest Rankin plays at Brandon High tonight, a big deal east of the Pearl River. The stadium will be full. The bands will be loud. The cheerleaders will be pretty. And the players will get after each other like wild hyenas.
It always was one of David Coates’ favorite nights of the year.
Years ago Northwest turned it around on Brandon, which had dominated the series.
Not too many Septembers ago, on a Saturday morning after a Friday night Northwest-Brandon game, David, who could never sleep after a game, win or lose, pulled up in his old red pickup in the parking lot where our boys, his Pat and my Tucker, were playing soccer. It could have been Memphis or New Orleans, Atlanta or Dallas. The routine seldom changed. We did it for years and years.
He plunks his chair down next to mine and hands me the sports section of The Clarion-Ledger.
I see the score, read a bit of the story. My team, Brandon, lost.
“You coach better now than you used to.”
“Couldn’t do it without the players,” he said.
Everybody knows David’s story now, and those of his children, Pat and Allie. It’s tragic.
David, a former Ole Miss quarterback, died this summer of a massive heart attack at age 57.
And I’m here to tell you that David Coates was a damn good man who did immense good for hundreds of players who came his way, that he was a loving father and stand up guy.
We’re in Little Rock one afternoon, in our lawn chairs on the sideline of a tree-shaded field, watching our Mississippi Fire play a team from Tennessee when our central defender, Drew Colson, went down hard and stayed down.
Everyone got quiet. After a long pause, David says, “You know what that is? My punter and my placekicker.”
He slowly shook his head.
“I hate soccer, you know.”
I know, but there wasn’t a place on this earth that he wouldn’t go to see his boy play it.