The number 77 is cherished by the Red Bank High School football program.
When senior standout Alex Lacy runs onto Tom Weathers Field for the Lions' Class 3A state quarterfinal against Loudon on Friday night, he will be representing the legacy of former Red Bank coach Tim Daniels by sporting a helmet decal of No. 77, which Daniels wore as an offensive lineman for the Tennessee Volunteers.
The Red Bank two-way contributor's mother is Venus Lacy, a former Tennessee Miss Basketball who helped Brainerd to a TSSAA state title in 1984, Louisiana Tech to the NCAA title in 1988 and the United States to a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Her son has made his own name in football, earning the prestigious honor of the Lions' No. 77 decal for not only his big hits and powerful blocking but his character.
"Alex is the definition of a program guy," Red Bank coach Chris Brown said. "He never has a bad day emotionally or mentally and always holds his teammates accountable. He is a selfless teammate who always has great practices and will even run scout team when we need a challenge. He embodies all that we think Coach Daniels valued in a lineman and a football player."
Daniels, an assistant at Baylor at the time of his death in April 2018, was considered a tremendous leader of young men in his time at Red Bank as a teacher and coach. His impact continues through his former players and assistants who have been able to succeed in part because of his mentorship.
In Lacy's freshman year at Red Bank, he was able to interact with Daniels on several occasions. Those moments still stick with him as he tries to help the Lions earn the fourth state semifinals appearance in program history.
"The number 77 means a lot to me because that means you are someone who plays really hard and is willing to lay it all out on the line for Red Bank," Lacy said. "Coach D was a tremendous man. He was funny and a really nice person. He really cared about Red Bank as a whole and wanted us all to reach our full potential. I am inspired to play in honor of him."
Lacy also said he gives his best effort every day because he knows his freshman and sophomore teammates are watching the older players on the team.
The 6-foot, 225-pounder is a big part of a bulldozing offensive line that has paved the way for 2,483 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns on 315 carries in just nine games this season, when the Lions have outscored their opposition 326-83. For the third straight season, Lumiere Strickland has rushed for more than 1,000 yards, which he credits to fullback Alex Cagle and linemen Lacy, Notorious Goodlow, Delmetrius Gustus, Delmontae Gustus, B.J. Ragland and Javarius Watkins.
"We just honored Lumiere for hitting 1,000 yards, and he immediately flipped the praise," Brown said. "He said that's an offensive line and fullback award. This team has made sacrifices, has worked extremely hard and loves one another."
The line is offensive coordinator Shannon Williams' position group, and Lacy said the coach has pushed the linemen to try to dominate each week.
Lacy has also made big plays on the other side of the ball. His defensive impact was noticeable at middle linebacker in a 13-0 regular-season shutout of Loudon as the Lions clinched the Region 3-3A title, leaving the Redskins as runners-up. Now Loudon (10-1) visits Red Bank (9-0) with a trip to the semifinals at stake.
"We want to go out there and show them what we are made of and play our style of football," Lacy said. "We have pushed through some tough situations because of COVID this year and want to keep pushing all the way to state. I will do whatever my team needs of me to help us get there."