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franklin county times

Coach of the Year – RMS Coach Larry Gilmer earns national recognition

1-Coach Larry Gilmer, recognized Monday as the Dove Men+Care Caring Coach of the Year, admires his trophy with his wife Beth.
1- Coach Larry Gilmer, recognized Monday as the Dove Men+Care Caring Coach of the Year, admires his trophy with his wife Beth.

Coaching middle school football is a passion for Russellville Middle School Coach Larry Gilmer – and now it’s something for which he’s been nationally-recognized.

Dove Men+Care Deodorant and the College Football Hall of Fame recognized the Gilmer with a surprise pep rally Monday to present him with the Dove Men+Care Deodorant Caring Coach of the Year Award. The recognition celebrates “the ways in which his care has been a positive force in his community for the last two decades.”

2-Gilmer receives his award from Crimson Tide legend John Hannah.
2- Gilmer receives his award from Crimson Tide legend John Hannah.

“Coach Gilmer is exactly what we look for when we recognize people who care,” said Hall of Fame executive vice president and chief revenue officer Brad Olecki.

A film crew was in town over the weekend to create a documentary about Gilmer. The filming included time on Monday when former players read letters to Gilmer to thank him for his impact on their lives. The coach said he found it hard not to get emotional at the surprise tribute.

3-Gilmer waves to a gym full of cheering students and faculty members during Monday’s surprise pep rally.
3- Gilmer waves to a gym full of cheering students and faculty members during Monday’s surprise pep rally.

“As a coach, when you’re dealing with seventh and eighth grade kids, you don’t know if what you’re saying is really sinking in,” Gilmer said. “For them to come back and take time out of their jobs … to come back for me, to recognize me, was very special. I guess I did make an influence – I sure tried to. I love them – I’ll always love them.”

4-Friends, family and students clamored for photos with Gilmer following the awards ceremony.
4- Friends, family and students clamored for photos with Gilmer following the awards ceremony.

This is the second year Dove Men+Care Deodorant has presented such an award. Of hundreds of nominations from fans across the country, the brand selected four youth and high school football coaches who most strongly display the award’s criteria – identified as passion, determination, respect, support and encouragement – and make a lasting impression on the lives of their players and within their communities.

“You can tell the love this community has for this man and the impact and influence he has had on this community,” said Jeff Wong, senior brand-building manager for Dove Men+Care Deodorant. Wong said he was honored to recognize Gilmer with the award, “for the care he has imparted on his players and across the entire community.”

In addition to receiving the award at the celebratory pep rally, Gilmer and his nominator – Wes Richardson – will receive funding for the Russellville Middle School football team and a trip to Atlanta, Ga., in December to be honored by the College Football Hall of Fame.

Monday’s recognition at RMS, Olecki said, was the first on-campus awards ceremony the partnership has done.

“We couldn’t have kicked off our second year any better,” Olecki said.

University of Alabama legend John Hannah presented the award to Gilmer in a ceremony that had RMS students on their feet, cheering for the coach they love. Hannah said he felt presenting the award was, in a way, “payback for all the coaches I didn’t get to say thank you to.” He said he sees the award as setting Gilmer up as a role model, “so other coaches emulate him,” which was particularly special with Gilmer being a middle school coach.

“It puts a positive light on the game,” Hannah said. “To have a coach that returns character to the game, it’s good for the game. That’s the only way the game is going to stay around.”

Richardson, who nominated Gilmer, said the coach stood out first in his mind when he first heard about the award.

“He strives to live a good example,” Richardson said. “He strives to put his family just underneath his Lord, and he puts others ahead of himself … It was very easy to nominate him.”

For Gilmer’s part, he was rendered nearly speechless by the honor, which he called “overwhelming” and “flattering.”

“I can’t believe it. I really can’t,” Gilmer said.

He said Richardson had told him about the nomination about a month ago, but “to be honest with you, I had forgotten about it,” he said.

Gilmer thanked his wife and sons for their love and support. He also shared some of his philosophy on coaching – the very principles that pegged him for the award.

“We play to win – but it’s more important to me to be a good example and try to teach them how to be good young men, good daddies, good husbands and to be good people in the community. That’s more important to me than winning football games,” Gilmer said “At the end of the day, wins don’t matter. Turning these young men into good roles models is more important than winning football games.”

It was a proud day for Russellville City Schools as a whole.

“It’s so fulfilling to see a person who has given everything to kids and his community – to see him recognized,” said RMS principal Dr. Karen Thorn. “I don’t think you could have a more perfect title for an award – caring coach.”

“Anytime something this positive can come to the city of Russellville, we’re proud of that,” said Superintendent Heath Grimes, adding that he hoped having Gilmer’s example spotlighted will set him up as a great role model for students.

Gilmer, who is nonetheless passionate about the game of football, said he doesn’t think, on that last day, that God will ask him how many football games he won. Instead, he expects to hear: “How many lives did you change, and how many seeds did you plant for my kingdom?”


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