Remembering a friend gone far too soon

In November 2011, just over a year removed from coaching in my last high school football game as an assistant at Basehor-Linwood, I wrote the following words for a column that appeared in PrepsKC about what I missed most about coaching.

They were about a man who I hardly knew, yet greatly admired – Blue Valley Coach Eric Driskell.

Here’s a guy (Driskell) I knew only from a chance meeting at a coaching clinic shortly after he had taken over the job from Steve Rampy. He was the guy who had edged out Paul Brown, my friend, for that job.

I can now see why the Blue Valley brass was so enamored with him. Driskell is integrity, aggressiveness, character, toughness and heart all rolled into one very impressive coach…and man.

My postgame interviews with him were like talks with a long-lost friend. He was quiet, yet always brutally honest. And he wears his emotions on his sleeve – and his love for his players and fellow coaches is always out front.

Over the three years I worked regularly for PrepsKC, I was privileged to cover Driskell’s Blue Valley teams on multiple occasions. In fact, I covered his second State title win as a head coach in 2013 in Emporia.

On the field after that heart-stopping win over Salina South, I watched Driskell watch everyone else associated with the Blue Valley program soak in the moment. Instead of being smack dab in the middle of that moment, he worked the outside of the mass of humanity at midfield, beaming as he saw the joy the triumph had given others.

It was moments like those that really defined Eric Driskell.

Though I did not get to know him as closely as have many others, I was proud to consider him a friend, and honored that he thought of me as one as well.

Thus, when I heard he had fallen victim to a brain aneurysm just days ago, eventually passing away late this afternoon, my heart sunk.

As was Eric, I’m a firm believer in God. As did Eric, I know that God has a plan for all of our lives.

We may scratch our heads at moments like this, struggling to find sense in them.

But it’s easy to make sense of one, unavoidable fact: Our world was blessed to have Eric Driskell as a part of it.

Make no mistake about it: His loss will resonate for days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years.

But also make no mistake about this: Eric Driskell’s impact on all who he touched will resonate for those same weeks, months and years.

He had so, so many gifts. And he was always giving of those gifts to others he came into contact with – even to those he contacted infrequently, like me.

Rest in peace, my friend. And Lord, please allow those who remain here on Earth to honor Eric by living life as he lived it.

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