This column represents part of thecrescentbuzz.com’s continuing coverage this week on the life, legacy and impact of Eagle’s Landing football coach Joe Teknipp who passed away this past Saturday following a bout with stomach cancer. Bill Renje is a contributing writer with thecrescentbuzz.com and has partnered with Coach Teknipp and Eagle’s Landing High School through his ministry with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In the days following the unexpected passing of Eagles Landing football coach Joe Teknipp, I found myself thinking a lot of what it means to leave a legacy.
Because of my sense of mortality with my own brush with death, I’ve always tried to live each day of my life as if it would be my last day on earth. I don’t know if Coach Teknipp consciously lived by this approach. But it was obvious to all that knew him that he built a lasting legacy, one worth emulating, with every day that God gave him in the short 47 years that he lived before succumbing to cancer on July 4.
The true measure of one’s life is not measured by the quantity of days lived, but by the quality of seeds planted in others every day we live. If you’re truly successful, they won’t mention your worldly successes at your Memorial. But rather, the impactful life you lived for others.
The harvest from the countless seeds planted have been on display during the memorial service and candlelight vigils held this week for Coach.
Nowhere during these times did I hear that he led his team to the best back-to-back seasons stretch in school history these last two years.
No one talked about wins and losses, or that he himself was once a great high school player that played on the college level. Those are the points I’ve been conveying to young people and coaches this week — that true legacy springs forth from the impact you have on other people’s lives. Not personal accomplishments.
Part of that impact was Coach Teknipp embracing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and the weekly character building lessons that our chaplains did with the teams. He was a frequent attendee to the school-wide FCA Club (huddle meetings). Mike Roby, FCA Area Director in South Metro Atlanta, said Teknipp was instrumental in the launching FCA football ministry in 2012.
“Coach Teknipp will live forever in the legacy he left behind in South Metro Atlanta within FCA,” Roby said. “He was one of the coaches early on that opened his office door, his football team and his mind to the possibilities of how a sports ministry like FCA could partner with high school football to see kids lives transformed. My phone would ring throughout the year with Coach on the other end wanting to offer another idea of things we could do, not only with his program but area high school teams as well.”
This September, we will host our third annual FCA South Metro Gridiron Game which is a celebration of two area football teams that partner with FCA to make a difference within their schools and communities. Coach Teknipp and Coach Tim Floyd of Jonesboro HS both came to Roby with the idea three years ago to have a game between the two schools to mirror what they first saw at the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl Breakfast.
“Coach Teknipp was instrumental in shaping and molding this now annual game which celebrates life through Jesus Christ by not only bringing two programs together but two communities together,” Roby said.
For his part, Floyd enjoyed a special bond with Teknipp that cut across competitive, geographic (county) and racial lines. Forget football coaches. There’s was a relationship that most men won’t find with other men in their lifetime.
“The first time we played, there was an immediate connection,” Floyd said. “Then we sat together at the Chick-Fil-A bowl breakfast and realized we had a lot of the same ideas, which led to the (2013 FCA) Gridiron Classic (between Jonesboro and Eagles Landing). We continued to talk and realized that we shared a lot of the same success and struggles.”
Most coaches can keep each other at arm’s length, especially when they’re game planning to beat each other. That’s just the nature of the business. But Coach Teknipp’s personality made it easy for Coach Floyd to let his guard down.
“He was always positive with a funny story to tell,” Floyd recalled. “Most coaches get together and talk football. It was just different with him. Our relationship went beyond football. We talked about our families, the players, our kids outside of football. His heart was good. I knew I could trust him and let my guard down in front of him.”
Mike Chandler also was blessed to meet Coach Teknipp through football, but grew to experience a relationship deeper than the sport with him. Chandler is an FCA community representative who volunteers his time as a team chaplain. He had an opportunity last season to work with the Eagles Landing football team after being with Mount Zion the year before when the team went winless.
What he remembers most is the selflessness exhibited by Coach in recognizing the contributions of others that often go unseen.
“I will never forget when the first game was over, we had won and Coach immediately found me on the sideline, shook my hand, patted me on the back and asked ‘how does your first win feel’,” said Chandler. “I will always remember that the most important thing to him at that moment wasn’t his own players, coaches or meeting the opposing team at midfield, it was me. That’s the kind of man he was and it has been echoed by countless others.”
Although Chandler only knew Coach for a short time, he was moved by their relationship and the Teknipp family became part of the Chandler family because of Joe’s selflessness and heart for others.
“The week before he went in to the hospital (for his cancer surgery), he called me out of the blue and said he wanted to give (my son) Garrett and I tickets to the Braves game,” Chandler said. “In our culture today which teaches and promotes “self” he was different. He always put others first.
“I will always cherish the phone conversations, the moments on the sidelines, the conversations in his office before and after practice/games, and I hope he knew what they meant to me. He was the kind of man I want my son to grow up to be — kind, thoughtful, loving, cheerful, a servant leader, great friend, great father and husband. “
Often, one of the biggest struggles of building an impactful, thriving FCA within a school is a lack of commitment from the coaches. This has not been an issue at Eagles Landing the last few years with ample buy-in from multiple coaches in multiple sports.
Still though, it’s crucial for the impact of a club to have a committed head football coach which impacts more athletes than any other sport on campus.
Terry Ferrell is the FCA Club (huddle) sponsor at ELHS and was blessed by the contributions of Joe and his wife Jennifer, the cheer coach, who were big supporters and regular attendees at the club meetings.
“Joe and Jennifer were both great supporters of FCA,” remembers Ferrell. “Coach Tek would always encourage me by his dedication to playing his type of game on the football field, which included sticking to the fundamentals of honor, excellence and integrity. I remember one instance where a player with more talent was not played over a player with the right attitude and the right heart. It was a lesson that Coach Tek taught his players over and over again.
“He was very consistent with his commitment to the weekly FCA Huddle meetings in season and off season. He was also my go to person for advice in how and when we should have our weekly meetings. “
When somebody passes away, you always hear about “what a great person they were.” Well, in closing, I’ll share my favorite memory of Coach Teknipp and you can make up your own mind as to the greatness and selflessness he possessed.
Two days before Christmas last year, I was in my home office on just a bone chilling, cold and rainy, really awful day — the kind of day you didn’t want to be outside. I heard the doorbell ring. I heard my wife talking to somebody — a man’s voice — as my son came into my office to get me.
I rolled out and there’s Coach Teknipp, standing in my kitchen with a smile on his face! He had never been to my house and found us via GPS. But he stopped off, as he was on his way out of town to visit in-laws in Alabama and then watch his son play in the Orange Bowl, to give me a Christmas card and a gift.
He was making other deliveries as well to some of the FCA guys that worked with Eagles Landing.
I don’t know if that sounds like a big deal to you, but who does that? Who, with so much else going on, before Christmas, thinks enough of other people to buy them a gift, a card and then go around on a crappy day weather-wise and personally deliver cards and gifts because he wants us to get it before Christmas?
But that’s the kind of guy he was. I never heard him talk about himself. But I heard him talk plenty about his wife Jennifer, his two college aged children who he was extremely proud of, his parents and, of course, his players.
Coach Joe Teknipp was “all in,” as was Jennifer, when it came to serving and impacting his students, fellow coaches and players through FCA. He will be missed, but never forgotten.