Remembering Coach Mac

On October 12th, the St. Luke’s Football Team, along with the entire Connecticut football community, lost nothing short of a legend. Jerry “Coach Mac” McDougall died from Leukemia last Wednesday. The only words I can personally think of that do Jerry McDougall justice are those of his lifelong friend and past headmaster of St. Luke’s, Dick Whitcomb: “Jerry still had so much to give. When I think of why Jerry left us, the only reason I can think of is that God needed him more up there than we do down here.”

In the countless local newspaper articles written about the passing of Coach Mac, few recognized or even listed his time as a football coach at St. Luke’s School. This is a testament to his far reaching influence. Coach Mac was able to leave a remarkable impression upon the Trumbull community as a football and baseball coach as well as an athletic director, while also managing to reach out and help revive a St. Luke’s Football team that was truly “between a rock and a hard place.” In the season before Coach Mac’s arrival at SLS, the football team had earned only one victory all season. I was a freshman at the time, and the seasons before that had been worse. I remember the first day I met Coach Mac my freshman year. Coach Brown had called the whole team in during the winter and told us that he had found someone who was a legend in the football community and he was here to turn our program around. I saw a man come out from behind the bleachers who looked like he could have been my grandfather. I will never forget the first words that came out of his mouth: “I want you to all say this with me. Hooah.”

All of us looked at each other, raising our eyebrows, and yet we immediately did what he said. There was something about Coach Mac that commanded obedience and respect from the second he entered a room. “Hooah,” we echoed.

That next season the boys on the St. Luke’s Football team got a taste of what many would call “old-school” coaching. If Coach Mac said something, we all did it. There was never any debate. If Coach caught you talking, you ran. You left your pads on the floor in the locker room? Up-downs. A team that had once been a motley crew of kids that thought the word “commitment” meant simply coming to the majority of practices quickly transformed into a family.

Pride. Attitude. Desire. And Sacrifice. PADS. Coach Mac had used this acronym for countless teams before us. However, when he introduced it to us it might as well have been the first time. For him, PADS, or anything having to do with football, never got stale. It didn’t matter if it was the first or the hundredth time he taught something- it was always genuine. PADS quickly became our team philosophy, a creed that every player could reference when the going got tough. The day Coach Mac died I was talking with a handful of other players about PADS and what it meant to all of us when we all realized that each one of us had written it on our desks at home. To Coach Mac, PADS was a way of life, not just a team motto, and his dedication- it turned out- was contagious.

What always astounded me about Coach Mac was his unwavering loyalty to all of us even though we had known him for so little time. Coach Mac believed in us when few others did. If Coach ever saw any of us show anything less than full faith in our team he made sure they came back on board, and quickly. Our lack of size didn’t matter to Coach because as he often reminded us, “Small potatoes are hard to peel.” In the off-season we would see Coach Mac at school basketball games and occasionally stopping by in the weight room. Every time we saw him he was eager to know who was getting better. It didn’t matter to Coach Mac if you were the smallest most insignificant member of the team or a superstar, he showed his love to all of us every time any of us saw him, called him, or even texted him.

All in all, Coach Jerry McDougall was the most inspiring man I have ever met in my life. He turned a team that the newspapers called “a perennial cellar-dweller” to a squad of hungry champions. There was an atmosphere that Coach Mac seemed to have constantly floating around him, an atmosphere of excitement and sheer joy for the game. Jerry McDougall was the greatest coach I’ve ever had, and while he may not be physically with us anymore, his legacy lives on through the countless people that he so strongly influenced. Rest in peace Coach Mac. We all miss you dearly.

 

-Sam Fuller, World News Editor

Posted by on October 21, 2011. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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