Family, friends remember McNease

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

COLQUITT -- Ronnie McNease's legacy spans many different things in Southwest Georgia.

McNease's former players and assistants talk about his will to win as Miller County's head football coach. His children talk about his compassion, always motivating people to help others.

Ever a coach, ever the competitor, ever the family man and ever the friend, that was what people say about McNease, who died Thursday at age 58. McNease's daughter, Jill Addison, said a memorial service is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Miller County's football stadium with visitation taking place an hour earlier.

McNease's wife of seven years, Terrie, told The Herald on Friday that he either died of a blood clot or heart attack after recently having quadruple-bypass surgery.

"All the condolences we are getting is just wonderful," Terrie McNease said. "It's just so wonderful to know that he is so well-loved. He gave his heart to his team and his family."

McNease's coaching tenure at Miller County lasted 23 seasons. He went 172-86-1 while leading his team to eight region championships and the 1999 GHSA Class A semifinals. Among the players he coached was former Georgia and New Orleans defensive end Charles Grant, who was part of the Saints' Super Bowl title team this past season.

Current Pirates coach Frank Killingsworth, who was an assistant under McNease from 1996 until McNease retired 10 years later and turned the program over to Killingsworth, said McNease's impact goes beyond football.

"It's not just the school, but the community as a whole that is shocked," Killingsworth said of McNease. "If there was such a thing as an icon, he was an icon in the community. He was not only 'Coach McNease,' but 'Coach Ron' to everybody. There is so much shock and sadness. He was a good guy."

"We knew he was special, but we're biased," Addison said with a laugh. "We got to see the 'Dad' part. There was a lot that people didn't get to see. He had that compassionate side and taught us to care about other people. He taught his players that a lot, and that's why we've gotten such a huge response over the past couple of days."

Current Seminole County head coach Alan Ingram, who was an assistant under McNease at Miller County from 1984-2004, received 26 phone calls in a 40-minute period after McNease's death.

"That alone tells you the impact he has," Ingram said. "Everybody is just trying to make sense out of it."

Ingram said his memories of the late coach span the seven years from the late-1980s until the mid-'90s when he and McNease were the Pirates' only two football coaches.

"I'm just devastated, in a state of shock," said Ingram, who left Miller to coach the Indians -- the Pirates' biggest rival. "It's not that often when you have the opportunity to have a friendship like the one we had. We coached together for 20 years, raised two families, had four boys between us that played football. He was a mentor. Well, he was my mentor, anyway."

Earlier this week, Ingram said McNease sounded great.

"He said he felt better than he had in the past two or three years," Ingram recalled. "I joked with him that we were both going to live until we were 85. And Ronnie would always say, 'Boy, I love ya.' And I would respond, 'I love you too, man.' Ninety-nine percent of the time, he initiated it. I'd try to beat him to it, though. That never, ever failed."

Ingram then added: "I thought he was going to have a good, long life. But when the Lord calls, you just have to go."