Celebrating a Life

Published 1:03 pm Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BURLINGTON — Call it a funeral, a memorial service, or what Coy Bacon would have called it: A celebration.

More than 200 family members and friends assembled Tuesday at the First Baptist Church of Burlington to celebrate the life of Lander McCoy “Coy” Bacon, the former NFL All-Pro who died last week at the age of 65.

“If you knew Coy, you knew he loved to have fun,” said the Rev. Melvin Freeman Jr. who served as the master of ceremonies for the service.

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“That laughter he had, that (joy) he had … can you imagine what that voice sounded like when he saw Jesus? I know Coy would say to us, ‘Have a good time.’”

Rev. Douglas Carter, pastor of the church, said Bacon was a great football player, but “his greatest love wasn’t football. His greatest love was children.”

Bacon played at Ironton High School and Jackson State College before landing in the NFL where he enjoyed a 16-year career.

Ironton coach Danny Pride played with Bacon at Ironton and Jackson State before he, too, signed to play with the Chicago Bears in the NFL. Pride’s career was cut short by an injury and he lived in California where he coached football and basketball.

But the two remained close friends and were reunited 18 months ago when Pride retired in California and returned home.

“Coy was a dear friend of mine,” said Pride as he fought back his emotions. “I respect him as a football player, but to me I respect him as a man. I know Coy loved the Lord and he’s helped me tremendously.

“I can’t speak for the NFL, but he was a dear friend and I loved him.”

A near-death experience in 1986 led Bacon to rededicate his life to God and he began to work toward helping others make good decisions in their life, especially children.

Bacon did numerous things to try and help the youth of Ironton. He started the “Drug Free Bicycle Club,” coached youth teams, took groups to Marshall football and basketball games, or just enjoyed a dinner at the Golden Corral. His treat.

One of the children whom Bacon touched was Kionna Spencer, a student at Ironton High School. Battling tears, she told the congregation that Coy didn’t just teach good decisions, but he was a father figure as well.

“He said four things happen when you use drugs,” Spencer said. “You get addicted, you get arrested, you get jailed, and you die.

“He said if it wasn’t for (children), he would have been dead a long time ago. Coy, you are my hero.”

Carter said Bacon was more than just a parishioner and friend.

“He was a jewel in my life. I am a better man today because of Coy Bacon,” said Carter. “As a pastor, it’s hard to have someone to lean on. Coy was one of those persons.”

Although the NFL did not recognize quarterback sacks until 1982, Bacon has been credited with an unofficial total of 130 sacks, more than any player in history.

Bacon’s 26 sacks in 1976 with the Cincinnati Bengals would be the single-season record, but the NFL does not recognize the accomplishment because it occurred prior to 1982.

Carter said Bacon — who had very large, strong hands — used to talk about how he had quarterbacks like Roger Staubach and Joe Namath in his hands. In fact, he once sacked the Hall of Fame quarterback Namath four times in a single game.

“He was one of the strongest unlicensed preachers. He had a strong thrust for football and he had that same thrust for God. He was the ‘Sack Man for God.’ He used to say he had Namath in these hands. That was his favorite saying. We’re thankful Jesus had him in his hands. He sacked a lot of people for God,” said Carter.

“We enjoyed him in friendship, in fellowship and his ministry. He was a proud man. He was from the old school. We will miss Coy.”