OCILLA, Ga. (WALB) - Beloved Irwin County Head Football Coach Buddy Nobles passed away Thursday morning after a hard-fought battle with stomach cancer.
Community members are gathering to celebrate Coach Nobles’ life 'under the red light’ in Ocilla at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24. Mr. Billy Stephens, the football team chaplain, will lead a prayer starting at 9:45.
In his last season, the Indians captured their first state title since 1975.
But the impact he made goes far beyond the football field.
“The toughness that he and his family showed during that year and how tough it was, he’s there and he’s coaching and he isn’t going to back down. I’m going to tell you, he’s a legend in my book,” said Fitzgerald Head Football Coach Tucker Pruitt.
During Nobles’ last football season with the Irwin County Indians, with some help from close friend, Pastor Billy Stephens, he found ways to be there for the team, even if it wasn’t physically.
“This is during pregame warm-ups and he FaceTimes me and goes, ‘Hey, can you walk me down the field and let me hear the music?’” said Stephens.
For the third straight year, the Indians played for the state title, a game Buddy didn’t miss.
Also on the sidelines, family-friend, Coach Pruitt.
“All the effort and all the years that he had put into it and just to be a champion, I was glad to be there and witness that. And that’s definitely something I’ll never forget,” said Pruitt.
“His friendship, the conversations on Saturdays, after the game you wanna call and go, ‘What about last night’s game?’ and, ‘Remember the play the kid made?’ And those are the things I’ll miss,” said Stephens.
Buddy’s impact also extends far beyond the reach of South Georgia and it was magnified in their game against their rival, Fitzgerald.
“That was an awesome night,” said Tucker.
From T-shirt sales to help with Buddy’s medical costs, both schools raised more than $8,000.
“He left such a legacy here with the kids and the relationships and impacted so many lives. But, you know you’re happy knowing he isn’t suffering anymore. And you know he’s up there with the Lord and he’s got a smile on his face,” said Tucker.
And a lasting message Stephens is sure the players won’t soon forget.
"The one consistent message Buddy had to his players was, ‘Coach loves you,’” said Stephens.