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Staff photo / Red Bank football coach Tom Weathers talks to players during a preseason practice in 2001. Weathers, who coached the Lions to more than 200 wins and an undefeated state championship run in 29 seasons leading the program, died Wednesday. He was 80.

Updated with more information at 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2020.

To find the true measure of Tom Weathers' coaching success, look past the on-field wins and losses.

As impressive as his resumé was, the most remarkable aspect of a career that spanned four decades are the dozens of former players who were inspired by him to become men of influence as coaches themselves.

Weathers, the legendary former Red Bank High School football coach, died Wednesday evening at the age of 80 after a lengthy illness.

"Any time somebody talks about a person in this context, they say 'Words can't express what they meant to me,' so I jotted down some words that do express what Coach Weathers meant to me," said Ted Gatewood, a 1983 Red Bank graduate who played for Weathers, later was a head coach at Ooltewah and East Hamilton and currently is an assistant at Red Bank.

"The first word that comes to my mind is love. You don't always connect that word with a football coach, but his love for everyone who played for him was unimaginable. He also set a great example of integrity and how to show others respect and compassion.

"If you played for him, he pushed you hard, but you knew there was a purpose behind it. He was a major influence on me and a lot of others getting into the coaching business. You saw the impact he had on people through the game of football, and it made you want to emulate that."

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Red Bank football coach Tom Weathers

Weathers coached the Lions for 29 years, compiled a 222-85 overall record and guided the 2000 team to a 15-0 record and the TSSAA Class 5A state championship. He worked as an assistant at five programs before taking over at Red Bank in 1973, and in addition to his state title with the program, his 1978 Lions finished as Class AAA runners-up.

His Red Bank teams won eight or more games 19 times and reached the playoffs 15 times, including 12 straight years beginning in 1990.

He stepped down at Red Bank in 2002 and went to Georgia to coach at Dade County for two years before returning to Tennessee to take over at Soddy-Daisy, where he worked for three seasons.

Weathers is a member of four halls of fame, and the field at Red Bank is named in his honor. He received the TSSAA's Distinguished Service Award in 1988.

"There aren't many who were as respected as Coach Weathers," said Gary Partrick, who played on Weathers' 1978 team and has coached in the Chattanooga area for 36 years, currently at Baylor. "He made a powerful impact on my life and so many others. A lot of us have dreaded this day for a long time because we knew he wasn't doing well."

The past month has been especially harsh on the Chattanooga area's coaching community as Weathers is the third hall of famer to pass away since Nov. 10. Former Hixson, Soddy-Daisy and Sale Creek softball coach Clifford Kirk and former East Ridge volleyball and girls' basketball coach Catherine Neely preceded Weathers in death.

"You don't replace those type legends," said Bill Price, who played for Weathers and later worked as an assistant on his mentor's staff before becoming a head coach at Soddy-Daisy and later leading Signal Mountain to the 2010 Class 2A state title. "He was my mentor, a man of high character who was always looking out for what was best for his players.

"He was a serious person, but everybody who played for him knew he cared about them a great deal. I hate it for his family. It's a tremendous loss for not only Red Bank but the entire state."

Red Bank's 2000 team defeated powerhouse Riverdale of Murfreeesboro 27-7 in the snow at Middle Tennessee State University to become the first Hamilton County team to win a championship in the state's largest classification in 27 years. That team wound up rising as high as No. 11 in the USA Today national poll, and it remains the last Chattanooga-area football team to have even played for a title in Tennessee's largest class.

"We were playing for a coach that we loved and we knew loved us," said Gerald Riggs Jr., an all-state running back on that title team who went on to play at Tennessee. "He was a man you wanted to play hard for and succeed for. It was the same respect factor you have for your father.

"Even though you didn't always like what he might say, you knew he was right and his advice was just trying to make you a better player and person."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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