Courtney earns GKS Hall of Fame ‘Summitt Ignite Greatness’ Award

Eddie Courtney’s never-give-up spirit, on the football field winning championships while successfully battling cancer, earned the Farragut High School varsity football head coach a special award during the 36th Annual Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony.

Courtney was recipient of Pat Summitt Ignite Greatness Award, presented in Knoxville Convention Center Thursday, Aug. 3.

“Pat Summitt stands for a tradition of winning and excellence in Tennessee — eight national championships, over a thousand wins and every one of her players earned her college degree,” said Bob Kesling, “Voice of the Vols” for Tennessee Volunteers Football and Men’s Basketball who served as event emcee. “Each year, the Hall of Fame honors a person who uses those championship traits of Summitt, on and off the field, to ignite greatness in the people they touch in their lives. This year, coach Courtney received the award for exhibiting those traits.

“Coach Courtney is Farragut through and through,” Kesling added. “The coach joined Ken Sparks’ staff at FHS in 1977.”

Named FHS head coach in 1996, “coach Courtney is the winningest coach in Farragut history, and he’s led the Admirals to the playoffs 14 times,” Kesling said. “… He led the Admirals to their first state championship with a victory over defending state champion Independence [High School] and did it in dramatic style.

“Down 35-7, the Admirals scored 38 unanswered points, came back to win at 45-35, ending Independence’s 29-game winning streak,” Kesling added.

Off the field, “Eddie also is a 12-year cancer survivor,” Kesling said. “His public fight with the disease has been an inspiration to his players, his friends, the people of Farragut and all of East Tennessee.”

Courtney thanked family members for their sacrifice over the years and expressed his appreciation to the Hall of Fame for the award.

“This means so much to me,” he said.

Courtney credited Summitt for inspiring him to accomplish what he has achieved as a coach.

He said in 1997 he had a chance for a coach-to-coach talk with Summitt.

“She’s blunt,” he said. “You know she will tell you exactly what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.”

Courtney said Summitt gave him eight pieces of advice:

• “Work harder than anyone else. You work harder than your assistants, work harder than your players and you certainly work harder than your opponents.

• “Fight for, sell and promote your program every day and don’t let someone else dictate what you do.

• “Teach the fundamental skills of the game … Demand perfection.

• “Do not tolerate distractions or compromise your core values of what you believe in. If you surround yourself with the right people, you’ll have loyalty and you’ll understand what it takes to be successful.

• “Be consistent every day. Be the same every way.

• “Know your staff, know your players and know everybody in your building because you will be developing lifelong relationships.

• “Change, change, change.

• “Don’t look back; always look forward and look side to side.”

“These eight things, for the last 20-some-odd years, allowed me to continue to do something that I wanted to do for the past 40 years,” Courtney said.

As part of that celebration of youth, the Hall of Fame recognized High School Male Athletes of the Year including basketball star Luke Smith, Class of 2017 graduate of Knoxville Catholic High School, and golf standout Davis Shore, a Class of 2017 graduate of Christian Academy of Knoxville.

“These are some amazing high school athletes,” said Dr. Jerry Punch, member of GKSHF board of directors.

“Smith finished his senior season at Catholic High School by helping lead the Irish to a 31-2 overall record and as a 2-AA State runner-up.

“Luke was a Mr. Baseball finalist, tabbed All-State and named KIL and PrepXtra Player of the Year,” Punch added. “Luke graduated at the top 10 percent of his class at Catholic and was part of the National Honor Society.”

While recruited by Sewanee, Davidson, UAB, Lincoln Memorial University, Smith chose


Shore plans to attend University of Alabama in the fall as a member of the men’s golf team.

“He was PrepExtra Golfer of the Year in 2015 and 2016 and was Tennessee Golf Association Harold Eller Junior Amateur Player of the Year for three years in a row,” Punch said.

“[Shore] was a member of the victorious United States Junior Ryder Cup team in September 2016,” Punch added. “He tied for third in the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in April 2017 and

was awarded the Paul S. Simon Character Award. He finished fifth, making it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kansas, July 21.”