KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Ten new members are set to join the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday night. That includes a wide variety of coaches and players who have left their marks in Knoxville over the years.
At the 36th annual ceremony, Hall of Fame founder Buck Vaughn will find his place in the hall he founded, alongside Tennessee icon Jim Haslam, former Vols baseball coach Rod Delmonico, Maryville legend George Quarles, one of Pat Summitt’s first Lady Vol standouts Dawn Marsh, and bowler Rebecca O’Connor.
The Pat Summit Ignite Greatness Award will be presented to Eddie Courtney. The Farragut head football coach has been on the Admirals staff for 35 years. Courtney led the Admirals to their first state championship last season, despite being down 28 points.
WATE 6 On Your Side Sports Anchor/Reporter Emily Proud recently sat down with Courtney to look back at the bond he had with the Lady Vols icon.
First off, congratulations. The Pat Summit Ignite Greatness award. Have you ever met Pat Summitt?
Yes. Years and years ago I was the graduate assistant for football back in 1976 at the University of Tennessee. She was just finishing up her playing career and the first few years of her coaching, so really we’re one year away from age. And then I was very fortunate after I got the head coaching job here twice to go down and sit and talk to her and talk to her about coaching, being a head coach and things that were very important. Those things I wrote down and kept in my private book and things that I cherish real well.
What were those conversations like?
They were very serious conversations because I appreciate the time I talked with her. I told her I’m there because I really want to know what are the key things to you through your success. To really be motivated in yourself then you lead everybody else through the example that you set. As a coach, I really wanted to nothing else to see what were things that you felt like that you really had to try to do to be successful.
What things has she told you that you’ve implemented into your coaching style?
She gave me about six or seven things I wrote down and one of them would certainly be, be the hardest worker in your program. Outwork your assistants, outwork your players.
Do you feel almost a responsibility as a coach in this town to continue her legacy with your team?
Well I can never be her at that level. I can never be, but I can be that locally and I can knowing that my name is now going to be after that, that it will show a lot of the same characteristics and try to do the same things. I can’t do them just like her, I can do them in my way but the message will still be the same.
You can’t replicate what she’s done, but you did win a state championship this past year. Getting to that point, does that give you some respect for her for how hard it really is to win a championship?
Definitely when you take something like what she did and build it into the respect that she got and how it just kept moving and then continuing the process of being consistent with it, that shows that how she did things were true.
Walk me through what it was like when you got that phone call that you were winning this award.
I was shocked at first and then I realized the importance of really what that award meant. I kind of thought, “well why me?” I mean there’s so many other people out there that have their own stories and then I just kind of looked at some things that were similar. I battled cancer 10 years ago, and her battle her last few years and how we try to approach things. I remember when I first was diagnosed with cancer, she was one of the first ones to send me a note and the note was very personal and it talked about just attacking it like you attack everything else in life. Just like she would. It’s certainly something I’m very proud of and certainly something I’m going to take very close to my heart just to be the recipient of that, really seriously.