Jaggers’ impact runs deep in his footballing family | High school sports
Shortly after his grandfather’s “Bear Bryant” breathed the last of his 81st birthday on Sunday night, Josh Jaggers sat down and watched old game tapes of family patriarch Joe Jaggers , trainer.
He had taken the VHS tapes and converted them and watched frequently to learn more about the play of a Kentucky high school football giant.
There, as he watched his grandfather coach the sport the family most identifies with, he smiled and spotted him on the fringes of several of his big Fort Knox High School teams.
“I could see it up close as clear as day, like it just happened,” Josh said. “I’ve already watched his match tapes.”
In the early hours of Monday morning, however, it was different.
Joe Jaggers, 81, died of a heart attack on Sunday night, although he had been battling dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for some years, Josh said.
“It’s a very cruel disease,” Josh said.
A relationship between a grandfather and a grandson – if both are really lucky – is unique and unbreakable.
Josh Jaggers had the problem with “Poppa Joe” whether it was football where the owner of five state championships and 292 wins over a 33-year career was always quick to offer advice.
“I learned a lot from him, dad did (Marty Jaggers) and just about everyone who came in contact with him,” Josh said.
Whether it was at Trigg County, Fort Knox or North Hardin — three of Jaggers’ five head coaching stops — it’s how he’s been able to connect with the players and his coaching staff, Josh says, who helped make his grandfather the coach he was.
“You hear a lot now about a coach being a ‘player coach’ and that’s what he was,” Josh said. “He was able to relate to children of all ages, races, ethnicities and religions. He had an incredible ability to build relationships and connect with everyone. He was able to be firm and draw lines so his players didn’t cross paths, and at the same time he could be a buddy to them…he was stern and could be a “you-know-what” but he was also there for his players. »
He bonded with players at a time when it was face-to-face and not through technology with a text or social media post. This is how relationships are solidified.
Former star running back Darren Bilberry, who played for Jaggers at FKHS, said: “…he realized that in addition to the hard work needed to be successful in sport, the boys also had need space to develop and become men. Coach Jaggers knew when to steer us in that direction and when to leave us alone to figure things out on our own.
Lost in all the state championships and victories and additions to the trophy cases, peel off a layer of Joe Jaggers and there was so much more that decades of players could experience, and maybe in the last few days, remember you affectionately like some of the best days or their lives.
And some of the best lessons, too.
“Coach Jaggers used to call me two or three times a month just to talk about football and old games and players,” said former quarterback Eddie Thompson, who led the Eagles to a state title in 1988 and later became quarterback for Western Kentucky University.
Thompson ended a post Monday seeking comment on his former coach with a sentiment that many now feel, “RIP coach. I love you.”
Editor Jeff D’Alessio covered Joe Jaggers for years as The News-Enterprise’s sportswriter. He can be reached at 270-505-1404 or [email protected]