There's one less of the fraternity tonight.
One less Old Dog.
Jerry Winfrey, another great one who wore No. 44, died Monday, June 4, 2007. His nephew, Martell, No. 73 and son of Jerry's brother Bobby (No. 74 and All-State on the 1984 state championship team), came and told me the horrible news just as we were concluding the opening summer weight workout for this year's football team.
Seems the kid who played with so much heart was finally let down by that heart that led him to be one of the greatest to ever wear the Black and Gold. I'm heart-sick and devastated at his passing and am writing this far past my normal bedtime because I simply can't sleep for thinking about him.
Jerry was a special player. Not large, except in heart. He played at 5'10" and 185 of the most solid pounds you have ever seen. In 1980 and 1981, he played on two undefeated R.L. Norris Ram teams. In 1982 and 1983, he played for me on two undefeated Thomson High Bullpup teams. For an encore, he played linebacker on my first two defenses in 1984 and 1985 on undefeated state championship teams. That is six straight years without a loss. He was All-State in 1985 and was Defensive MVP in the Georgia High School All-Star game, which was telecast live with the legendary Larry Munson continuing to say that the little linebacker from Thomson was all over the field. The winning coach of that All-Star game was our own Luther Welsh.
Jerry went to NE Oklahoma junior college on a football scholarship, where he played on the National Junior College Champions in 1986. After missing most of his sophomore year with torn ligaments in his ankle, he signed with the University of Hawaii where he played his last two years.
I coached Jerry all four years in high school, and without a doubt, he was one of the very best it was my good fortune to work with. He led with his voice and by example. He policed himself at practice. He would do push-ups for mistakes, and I would have to ask him what he did wrong because I hadn't seen his error in technique. He was the kind who would get furious if we didn't get to scrimmage live every Tuesday and Wednesday during the season. He couldn't stand "dummy" scrimmaging when he couldn't put the hammer on his own teammates to make them tougher. No one worked harder in the weight room. Although he weighed only 185, his best max on the bench press, just before his senior season was 425. He played hurt and never asked out of a game or practice. One night at Westside his junior year, he was suffering from severe cramps. We finally packed the back of his pants with ice and he limped back onto the field and intercepted a pass in the final minutes of a 52-22 win. As he was running the interception back, ice flew from his pants when he was tackled. Later that year, he intercepted a pass to seal our win in the state championship game against Marist.
I've been blessed to coach many fine players in my career, but none was more special to me than No. 44, Jerry Winfrey. There's one less Old Dog tonight, but there will be a "Ghost of the Bricks" helping us win next year. I just wish the players we have today could have seen the way he did it.
God bless you, Jerry.