For God did not give us a spirit of Fear, but power and love and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7
As my cousin Pat Jr. eloquently said at the private burial Tuesday, trying to explain what Coach Dye means to us would be like trying to “empty the sand from the Sahara Desert with a spoon.” As the memories flood…there are too many to pen. This is a feeble attempt to honor and pay tribute to a man who touched me and so many others.
This verse above encapsulates Coach Dye, as does the Auburn Creed which references a spirit that is not afraid. Coach recently spoke to a group of former players about the Auburn creed. He said “when I got to Auburn in 1981 and read this Creed I thought, this is me! A spirit that is not afraid!” For 39 years he served Auburn and loved Auburn fearlessly. Auburn truly loved him back.
I recently had lunch with him, and I asked him why he chose coaching. His response was this: “I had a high school coach (Coach Frank Inman) that made me feel a certain way about myself. I wanted to give my life making young men feel the way my coach made me feel.” Coach Dye spent his life doing this and honoring his high school coach. His life touched people all over the country, both inside and outside the world of football.
As so many can attest, Coach Dye could capture a room like no other. Maybe it was his aura or presence. He didn’t have to demand respect…it was just there…palpable. He was brutally honest, tough, decisive, competitive, loyal, loving and caring all wrapped in one. Pat Jr., who eulogized his dad, said, “spending a minute with him was like an hour, an hour like a day, and a day like a month.” Simply put, you would hang on every word he said and walk away pondering what you just heard.
Coach Dye afforded me a working scholarship in 1988 for which I will be forever grateful. Serving as a student and graduate assistant for five years set the trajectory of my life. My experiences with work and the people at Auburn grew me up and set my course for my years to come. Work on his farm, GA’s office, weight room, video room, and game days and practices formed my experiences there. He treated me like a son and Amy like a daughter. Admonishing and consoling. Little did I know that the people I met and the friendships I created would impact me for a lifetime. So thankful people like Jess Simpson, Matt Land, Chris Gray, Tommy Bowden, Charles Kelly, Joe Whitt, and Stacy Searels who helped mold me. I learned so much about football and life from these guys. I’m still learning.
As I now enter my 27th year as a football coach, not a day goes by that I don’t recollect an Auburn experience, an Auburn person, an Auburn memory. As Bo Jackson said at the funeral, “Coaching was a side dish to Coach Dye. Building men was his main agenda.” Coach forever talked about being a good husband, good father and being a “productive citizen” as he would say.
A portion of the Auburn Creed reads “I can best serve my country by ‘doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.'” Coach was not a saint, but as a former player told me recently, he was always doing “kingdom work.” Loving, sharpening, building. He lived this creed and I know he found favor with the Lord.
At that same lunch, Coach told us there was a black minister (John Tarver) close to the family that would drop by for visits when he was a boy. Tarver would come by on Christmas mornings to share a brief devotional and pray over the Dye family. (Later my mother made sure he spoke at her father’s funeral; he was his only minister). Coach Dye talked that afternoon about never seeing color or race. He treated all men with dignity and respect. That’s how he was raised, and who he was. Our country needs more men like this.
We have lost a great coach and unbelievable man. There are countless memories and stories that will be forever shared on back porches and in field houses.
I hope my life will make him proud. Not the wins and losses, but the way I work and treat people. He has taught so many so well. We will do our best to keep his legacy strong. Yes, there will be those days when “we lay our guts on the line and come up empty-handed. We will get up and lay ‘em on the line again, and again, and again.”
My Grandmother (Nell Dye) gave me 20 dollars for memorizing that Auburn Creed when I was a child. I am glad I did.
Forever Grateful, and War Eagle!