DECATUR, Texas - An 83-year-old Decatur man will be honored Friday night for helping run the chains at every Decatur High School football game for nearly 70 years. He will also reunite with his old coach.
Coy O'Neal has always loved football. He's 83 now but was just 15 and in the stands cheering his Decatur Eagles when he called on to help on the sidelines.
"They came and got him out of the stands, and he ran the down box marker,” said O’Neal’s relative, Carey Williams.
The Eagles coach knew O’Neal from the track team and called him down to the field. O’Neal has been on the sidelines on the chain crew and working the down box ever since at every home game.
That was 69 years ago. He hopes to make it 70 years next season
“Everyone in the community loves Coy and all look after him and take care of him,” said Williams. “It's a special deal to have him here."
O’Neal will be honored Friday night at the school’s homecoming game against Gainesville.
“I don't know that there's another school district in Texas or the US that would have someone that has a tradition like this,” explained Decatur ISD Superintendent Rod Townsend.
Everyone in town knows O’Neal. The ceremony is their way of showing him how much they appreciate the joy he brings to the generations who have watched him go up and down the sidelines.
“I went to school and played football here, and he was pulling the chains then,” Williams said. “The football guys look after him. I've seen him get knocked down a few times, but he hops right back up."
The coach who called on O'Neal 69 years ago is coach Cy Young and will reunite with O’Neal. Coach Young is 97 years old.