Bacon was a good man to know

Published 5:58 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Most people knew Coy Bacon the NFL All-Pro. The lucky ones knew Coy Bacon the man who just wanted to help.

Growing up in Ironton was exciting during the 1970s and early 1980s when the NFL played on Sundays. Everyone wanted to watch their favorite team, but they also wanted to know how Coy Bacon played.

Most people my age only got to know Coy as the player. Not until after he retired and decided to come back home in 1986 did I get to know the real Coy Bacon.

Email newsletter signup

Another player I head heard about but had never even seen was Danny Pride. Ironically the two grew up together in Ironton and knew each other better than anyone.

“We both played on the Ninth Street playground and because we were both big guys we played against each other. We were both pretty competitive, so it got pretty rough at times,” said Pride with a grin.

The two men stay friends and got together each summer when Pride came home from California. When Pride retired from teaching and coaching last year, he wanted to return to his hometown.

“We both looked forward to spending time together again,” said Pride.

And they did. Any time Ironton was playing football, basketball, track, whatever the sport, there was a good chance Coy and Danny would be in the stands.

That all ended too abruptly last May when Coy became ill and couldn’t get out and do all the things he loved, namely being around the kids in town.

The main reason Coy returned home was because of a drug-related shooting in 1986 while he was living in Washington, D.C. Coy nearly died from a gunshot wound, but he recovered and returned to Ironton with a promise.

“Coy said that he was going to devote himself to the youth of Ironton. He was a Christian and he cared about the people of Ironton. He wanted to help the kids here to make good decisions,” said Pride.

And he did.

Coy spent his time as a motivational speaker. He talked about how a young, backward kid from a sheltered life in Ironton got caught up in the fast life of the big city. He wanted to warn the kids to make good decisions and take the right path.

He got involved with the youth. He coached little league basketball as well as high school football. He brought in people like Archie Griffin to speak to kids and encourage them to stay in school, get a good education, and avoid the pitfalls of life such as drugs an alcohol.

“Coy wouldn’t even go to the Legion and have a Pepsi with us. He didn’t want to be around the temptation (of drinking a beer). I admire him for that,” said Pride.

Coy Bacon had 130 career sacks. Bill “Tiger” Johnson, who coached in the NFL for six decades, once told me that Coy was the second-best pass rusher he ever saw behind Gino Marchetti of the Baltimore Colts.

I hope the NFL will realize how good Coy was and enshrines him in the Hall of Fame, something he truly deserves. He played 14 seasons, was an All-Pro three times, and he more than just rush the passer. He played the whole game, not just in passing situations.

I knew Coy Bacon the NFL All-Pro. I got lucky and knew Coy Bacon the man who just wanted to help. And knowing Coy Bacon the man, he’s already in another Hall of Fame that is more important than anything the NFL can manufacture.

—— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.