Ring of integrity

Courtney center stage with region, area Coach of Year awards at FHS football state title ring fling

Eddie Courtney defined, during the final celebration event of his football team’s Class 5A accomplishments in 2016, what it means to have earned a state championship ring.

“It’s a circular band worn as an ornament to be displayed by only those who share a special bond of accomplishment,” said Courtney, Admirals skipper since 1996 who has been a part of the FHS coaching staff all but two years since 1978, during a state championship ring ceremony in Vickie B. Wells Auditorium Tuesday evening, March 21.

While more than 100 rings were given out individually, the last to receive one was the most celebrated: Courtney himself.

Earning East Tennessee Chapter of National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Amateur Football awards after his team captured the Class 5A state title with a final 14-1 record, Courtney has been praised by coaches, administrators and players as both a sharp coach and a dedicated Christian man.

Courtney also earned Coach of the Year honors in Region 3-5A, KFL and PrepXtra.

“He’s a warrior, beating back cancer like he has, and now earning three different Coach of the Year awards. We’re so happy for coach Courtney and we’re proud of what he and his program have accomplished,” Donald Dodgen, FHS athletic director, said.

Adam Fulton, senior starting quarterback and one of the team’s four captains, said he remembers back to his elementary school years when Courtney went through his battle with cancer — Hodgkins disease.

The resulting treatments left Courtney almost too weak to put one foot in front of the other, losing his hair in the process. Yet the Admirals skipper, much more often than anyone could have expected, carried on with business as usual coaching and teaching.

Annual Eddie Courtney Courage Award, the recipient honored early each calendar year, is given to someone connected with Knox County youth or high school football displaying similar courage through adversity.

“It’s great to win [a state title] for coach Courtney; I think that’s literally half the reason why everybody wanted to win it,” Fulton said. “We know he’s been there for so long and that’s he put in so many hours.

“He’s the one who would wake up in the morning and cut the practice field and cut the game field when we had grass,” Fulton added. “He would be putting up the signs and making our locker room nice. Putting up sayings for us to look at. I feel like it always helps.

“He’s done a really good job.”

George Quarles, former Maryville High School football head coach who won 11 state championships in 17 years, knows Courtney well.

“I was certainly happy a guy like Eddie Courtney could win,” Quarles, now offensive coordinator at Furman, said. “Any good thing that comes his way, he deserves. You always like it when good things happen to good people, and you certainly put coach Courtney in that category.

“He’s a great man, throwing aside the football part of it,” Quarles added. “I think anyone would want to have their son around coach Courtney. The battles he’s been through, the perseverance he’s shown, the courage, the integrity, class, you name it.”

Brad Taylor and Courtney have locked horns 11 times as opposing head coaches since 2007, including three in the post season during Taylor’s seven seasons at rival Bearden, with Courtney winning nine.

Having been on the opposite sideline to Courtney as a former Bulldogs player, then as an assistant coach at BHS dating back to 2001, Taylor said, “He’s been at Farragut for a long time and I’ve always respected him as a person.

“He always treated me very well, very respectfully. .... I’ve always been appreciative of him for that,” Taylor, having finished his first season as Karns head coach last fall, added. “I’ve always held coach Courtney in high regards. I just think he’s a fantastic guy and I couldn’t be more happy for him to win the state championship and be honored as Coach of the Year and all the other honors. It’s very well deserved.

“He tries to do things the right way and does right by his players. And he’s respected by other coaches and treats other coaches with a lot of respect as well.”