Coach Larry English Loses His Battle with ALS - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

12/3/04

Coach Larry English Loses His Battle with ALS

"Good Game." "Good Game."

Coach Larry English died Friday, December 3rd after a lengthy struggle with Lou Gehrig's Disease. To honor his memory, NewsChannel 11 brings you this story, which was originally broadcast in November of 2003.

Lou Gehrig played in more than 2,000 consecutive Yankee games, he never missed. Larry English has been coaching football for 20 years.

Principal Carter of McKenzie Junior High says that he wishes he had 100 people like him.

"He's at school every single day, he never misses," says Principal Carter.

Even after Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with a deadly disease, he told his fans he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Coach English faces the same illness, but he goes on day after day impacting people's lives in a positive way.

Just last spring, Larry was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Just as the Yankee fans cheered for Lou when he moved to the sidelines, McKenzie Junior High fans are cheering for Coach English who is on the sidelines now but still calling the plays.

Sergeant Sowell's son played for Larry and said that he wishes they had more people coaching their kids with that kind of integrity and character, and Jenny Hatch has watched all four of her boys play for Coach English.

"I mean these kids would do anything for Coach English," says Hatch.

But nothing can be done to save him. No one knows what causes ALS or why it seems to pop up out of nowhere.

Dr. Randolf Schiffer says ALS hits people in the prime of life.

"Regarding age, generally, they're in good health. Otherwise, our treatments are weak. It's just very difficult," says Dr. Schiffer.

But Dr. Schiffer says attitude won't change the course of the disease, but it can improve the quality of life. Larry and his wife Jan live by that theory.

"No matter how long he has left, we want his life to be full. We could go and be real bitter, but that'd be such a waste of time," she said.

So, the English family gathers with their three children this holiday and are amused that their father can find humor in the worst situation.

"What is normal? I may be the only normal person here. Everybody else has a problem," said Coach English.

It's because of that playful attitude, that Jan says, instead of shying away from a scary illness, friends have flocked to help the English family, even playing tricks on the funny guy who always manages to get the last laugh.

"I'm gonna get to heaven first, and they better watch out. I'll be waiting on them," said Coach English.

But for now, after 28 years of marriage, and three beautiful children, Larry says he is grateful that this illness has given him more time to enjoy them.

"If I had died in a car wreck, I would have missed out on so many blessings," he said.

Just like Lou Gehrig, who thought he was the luckiest man, Coach Larry English says he is blessed.

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