Farewell to a Family Friend

My brother wrote the following to honor a close friend of the family who recently passed. He was both my brother’s and my football coach and teacher. perryfootball

 

How Perry Impacted My Life
by R.M.K.
 
            Almost 40 years after graduation I often think about Coach Stubberfield and the way he positively influenced the direction of my life. He was not only a good family friend, but a mentor to myself and many of my class in 1977. There is one memory in particular that comes to the fore when I think of him. It was during the football season of my senior year and our class was filled with tough, great athletes who were battle hardened from several gritty seasons on the Mac High grid iron. We were undefeated after five games and were ranked third in the state, just behind our number one rival Forest Grove. We were slated to face off in game six that season, knowing full well the winner would probably go the distance in the state playoffs later in the year.
     The team was in the locker room the night of the game suiting up when I noticed you could hear a pin drop. We were very subdued, completely intimidated by playing one of the top teams in the state, and overwhelmed with doubt. Nobody was making eye-contact or speaking. Perry stood up a moment to look out of the coaches window when out of nowhere, the door flew open and in a rage he stormed out wearing a beet-red face huffing like a bull. He spit as he spoke, and he didn’t hold back as he discharged his words with a force few of us would ever forget. “Are you kidding me!” he roared, “What the hell is going on here!? You’re as good as anyone in the state, and you’re AFRAID!?”
     Nobody moved, frozen in time watching as our coach came unglued at us for standing on our heels before the game even began. “This is the MOST important game in your life and you’re going to waste it defeated before you ever take the field!?” We looked at each other, completely stunned. “I think this is the best damn team in the STATE and you will NOT sit this one out! You’re going to strap those helmets on and do yourself proud. Pull yourselves together because you WILL get out there and knock somebody on their damn ASS! GOT IT!? We FEAR nobody!”
     This short speech seemed to go on for ten minutes as the team came to life. By the time he finished we were slamming our lockers, pounding fists on each other’s shoulder pads and screaming like frenzied banshees. Someone yelled, “LET’S GO! LET’S GET OUT THERE AND BEAT THESE GUYS!”
     We couldn’t dress fast enough. When we took the field about two minutes later and we must have looked like troops attacking a beach. We were cocky and confident.
     We fought like hell against a very powerful Forest Grove team that night. They went on to barely wrestle a 6-2 win over the grizzlies, but left with a new respect for our school and our athletics program. After the game Perry looked all of us in the eye and said how proud he was of us and how a defeat is never truly a defeat when you leave everything you’ve got on the field.
     There are times in my life when I have to speak before a crowd, or deal with a tough client as part of my work when my thoughts go back to that game with Perry. I think of how I need never give into my fear when something really counts; how we all have so much more inside to give than we think we do. I thank Perry for that lesson. He will be truly missed. 
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