Sports

April 11, 2013

Loran Smith: Hightower deserved outpouring of love

AMERICUS — An agri-business community overflowed the First Methodist Church sanctuary here on April 2 to pour out its heart to a grieving family as residents remembered a high school football coach who, for decades, gave his life to teaching and offering sage advice to young kids.

Jimmy Hightower was an accomplished coach who claimed multiple state titles. He caused Americus to swoon on Friday nights. Whenever a game is played, victory is the objective of all who venture into sports. Championships are the ultimate goal, but those like Hightower see themselves doing more than building trophy cases to validate their careers.

He didn’t coach in the era of TV shows, shoe contracts and dealer cars. This is not to say that the highest paid coach in America doesn’t care about his kids or want the best for them, but the Jimmy Hightowers of our communities across America feel a need to help kids at a time in their lives when the help is most critical.

Even those college coaches with an altruistic bent often must be expedient. You have to find those who produce every year and your focus is for the next class around whom you hope to build a contender.

A high school coach sees his kids in the hallway in class and at church. There is often a bonding that is everlasting. At Jimmy’s service, his daughter Lara and his son David shared with the mourners a sampling of the hundreds of cards and letters from “Jimmy’s kids,” which poured into the Hightower home at Woodland Acres.

“Jimmy’s kids” knew he was dying of throat cancer and wanted to tell him what he had meant to their life. They knew his time was short. They wanted him to know that when his burden was at its highest, accompanied by unrelenting pain, that they — as he did for them — cared about him.

In times like these, you always have your own reflections as the funeral ceremony moves along. You think about a good life lived, a life in which someone reached out to others. A man of instruction, a man of discipline, a man of goodwill, a man whose influence enhanced the underpinnings of an entire community. They came, with deep reverence, to say goodbye.

When I first got to know Jimmy, he was a member of the board of directors of the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association. He worked for his professional organization to provide service to coaches through the high school all-star game and its annual clinic. He loved to interact with fellow coaches. He enjoyed a bit of penetrating humor and a walk on the light side.

Mention the name of a coach, and he remembered something that caused him to grin. Wry humor made him chuckle, but he was never mean-spirited. When the joke was on him, he laughed loudest.

Two of his players became head coaches in the NFL — Dan Reeves and Chan Gailey, both of whom were in attendance. He was proud of them, but he was just as proud of the kids who finished high school and went about settling in their respective communities and became productive and benevolent citizens.

Jimmy was a member of several halls of fame. He was elected to the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. He enjoyed the hall’s annual dinner in Macon. When the roll call of the inductees took place, he walked proudly to his seat.

Honor came his way because he had underscored the work ethic and because he was an exceptional leader. However, what he enjoyed most was not the enduring tribute that this event brought, but the opportunity to be with his friends. To enjoy reminiscing and remembering yesteryear, those precious memories which remind us of the days of our treasured past.

High school coaches have more challenges than any in the coaching profession. They daily collide with the frustrations and emotions of immature kids in need of direction.

High school coaches give of themselves. That is why Americus responded in abundance to pay its respects to this exceptional man.

Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at loransmith@sports.uga.edu.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DHS vs RHS fball xtra 7 mlh.jpg Totally focused on fútbol

    In order to chase his soccer dream and continue to mature and improve in the sport that he loves so much, Dalton High School athlete Eder Mora has decided to make a sacrifice — giving up football.

    July 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • Whitfield, Chris.JPG Chris Whitfield: Football fans may lose, but Mora will win with decision

    Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to see some of the finest athletes this state has ever produced. From professional athletes who went on to the NFL, MLB and the NBA to college washouts who still rank as the finest high school athletes I have ever seen, I have been blessed.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • CHS fball conditioning 6 mlh.jpg Christian Heritage enters camp with many questions to answer

    In the first day of conditioning for local high school football teams, Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag didn’t decide any of the position battles that his team faces this year after losing a strong senior class.
    But there will be plenty of those battles to come.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • NW hoops star Storey to play for Bob Jones

    Caleb Storey, a 2014 graduate of Northwest Whitfield High School, was named to the Bob Jones University men’s basketball team for the upcoming 2014-2015 season.

    July 26, 2014

  • Three local golfers to play in GSGA match

    Dalton boys golfers Hardin Chambless and Landon Painter and Chatsworth’s Tori Owens will represent northwest Georgia in the Georgia State Golf Association’s Junior Sectional Challenge Match on Sunday and Monday at The Landings Golf Club in Savannah.

    July 26, 2014

  • 7on7 day 1 '14 23 mlh.jpg Conditioning for success

    Local high school football teams have had voluntary workouts, seven-on-seven drills and other practices and camps throughout the summer.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Summer of Satterfield: Rising star goes low for latest victory

    Chatsworth’s Savannah Satterfield is proving her mettle on the golf course this summer, and her latest tournament outing resulted in another title and a record round.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roadrunners’ Mitchell receives high academic honor

    Chatsworth’s Tyler Mitchell hopes to make his living playing professional golf. But if his dreams of courtesy cars and big checks on the PGA Tour don’t come through, he knows he can rely upon his education.

    July 25, 2014

  • Larry Case: Camping a sure cure for the big city blues

    In case you haven’t noticed, we are looking right down the gun barrel at winding down on another summer.

    July 25, 2014

  • Chris Whitfield's Fairways & Greens: Nob North prepares for 'big date'

    Like anyone getting ready for a big date, golf courses get dressed up when it is time for a major event. But while a woman may put on a little makeup and a man may add a spray of cologne, Nob North Golf Course in Varnell is getting something more akin to Botox.

    July 24, 2014