The first thing I noticed when meeting Coach Lonnie Hester almost a year ago, was his light up a room smile. I had just started sports writing and Lonnie was one of the first coaches I started working with. Although I knew about football and other sports, this new career I had chosen was still kind of scary to me. No matter the time or day, anytime I had a question or needed a quote for an article, he was always there front and center with that big ole’ smile on his face, ready to help.
When news broke that Lonnie Hester would be stepping down as Head Football Coach for the Hackett Hornets, my heart broke a little. Not only because he was moving from the field to the stands but because I was going to be losing one of my favorite football co-workers.
I knew when I started writing this article, I didn’t want to do some ho-hum story loaded with Hester stats and zero personality. You could find that information anywhere. I wanted to zoom in on the real Lonnie Hester. Not only the coach but the father, son, friend, and confidant. Most people just see what’s on the football field. But what happens when the games over? What happens the other six days of the week?
When it comes to his players, Coach Hester, on one hand, would be stern and direct when trying to get his point across but then turn around, wrap his arm around you and tell you good job. For many of his players, he was that extra father figure that they looked up to and respected. “Coach Hester and I used to clash a little bit but he was a great coach,” says Hornet player Layne Dennis. “He knew how to lead a team and take charge. I liked his passion for coaching and how he pushed all of us to be our very best. He was tough on us but that’s why he always had great seasons. I won’t forget the last game we played and he told us how proud he was of us and told us if we ever needed anything that we could call him and he’d be there to help us.”
One thing is for sure. Whoever follows in Coach Hesters footsteps is going to have some big shoes to fill. Blayde Chappell, another Hester Hornet player, said this about his coach, “Coach was only hard on us about 98% of the time. But he made us who we are and is always there for us if we need him.” The only thing keeping many of us from having a complete sobbing like a baby meltdown is the fact that we are not losing Hester forever. He is just moving on up in the world, taking a position as Assistant Principal and Athletics Director.
So Coach Hester, from your entire fan club, Thank You!!! Thank you for always taking the time to be there. Thank you for your constant and consistent support. Thank you for your gentle soul and being able to pick us up when we’ve fallen down. Thank you for never judging and always encouraging. Thank you for the blood, sweat, and tears that you selflessly put into the game. Thank you for never doubting. And thank you for being a fearless leader, even when you wanted to break down yourself.