LINCOLN, Ala. (WIAT) – It’s been an emotional week in the Lincoln community, following the death of 25-year-old Lincoln High School assistant football coach Chance Byrd.
Byrd was also an alumnus of the high school and a star athlete.
“We lost a brother. A father figure. A very important piece to Lincoln High School,” Lincoln Head Coach Matt Zedaker said.
On Thursday night, Lincoln played against Corner High School. It was the Golden Bears’ first game without Byrd. It wasn’t just players and coaches honoring Byrd with his name on their helmets, but there were signs that read “#ForByrd” throughout the student section and stands. The bleachers also had a quote by Coach Byrd that read “Leave no doubt. Leave no regret. Leave everything you have on the field.”
Before the game, the announcer became very emotional talking about Byrd as they honored him.
“We are all better for knowing Chance Byrd,” the announcer said.
Zedaker said it was a hard week for him and his players as they processed everything.
“Shock at first. Disbelief. Sad. Angry,” he said.
Corner High Coach Jon Cooper said he may not have personally known Coach Byrd, but he understands how painful the week has been for the Lincoln community.
“Brings your team and your coaching staff together because you understand how quickly it can be taken away from you,” Cooper said.
Zedaker remembers bringing Byrd onto his staff. He said when he met him, he knew right away he was a players coach.
“Byrd was one of the toughest individuals I ever met. And he had a toughness about him and he instilled in his receivers and all the kids on our team,” he said.
Thursday night’s home win was about more than football. Everyone at Lincoln High School said Coach Byrd’s legacy will live on.
“He’ll be with us every game. We know he’s looking down right now. He’s got a hat on. He’s pacing and he’s ready to roll,” Zedaker said.
The Golden Bears won with a last second touchdown and extra point, 27-26. You can imagine there wasn’t a dry eye from anyone with Lincoln on their shirt. Coach Zedaker said at the end of the game, “that was for you, Chance. Love you, man.”