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Mayo’s death stirs plenty of memories

PROCTORVILLE — Jim Mayo left his mark on and off the field.

Mayo, the man who literally built the football program at Fairland High School as well as the stadium, died Friday at the age of 75.

But Mayo not only had success as a coach — he won five Ohio Valley Conference titles including the school’s first in 1967 — but also with his influence of players and coaches.

Coal Grove head football coach Dave Lucas began his career as an assistant coach under Mayo at Fairland. Lucas has won more than 200 games and is a member of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He credits Mayo for a lot of his success.

“He had a lot to do with what I’m able to do. He and coach (Carl) Ward got me started,” said Lucas. “You won’t find a better person than coach Mayo. He was a very religious man. He stayed in contact with his players.”

The concern for his players was something that former assistant Mike Whitley said left a lasting impact on those who played for Mayo.

“Above all things else, Christ was number one in his life. He was always there for anybody. Anybody. Any player or kid for that matter. He did so many things for people that most people don’t even know about,” said Whitley.

Whitley, Lucas, John Lemley and Gary Salyer were all assistants under Mayo and the four had a dinner gathering with Mayo last spring at a Bob Evans restaurant to talk about the memories of their friendships.

The discussions continued even though the restaurant had already closed.

“I think we sat there for two hours after they closed,” said Lucas. “Jim was a great man. He was a man of faith. One of the comments he made last spring at a reunion was that he wasn’t worried about dying. He just didn’t want to leave his loved ones.”

Whitley said going past the closing time was something that always happened when coaching with Mayo.

“We never had a time clock on our practices. You just did it and you worked hard. His success was taking an average kid and making him above average,” said Whitley.

Both Lucas and Whitley said Mayo had a great influence on their careers and lives.

“He was a great role model for a young coach starting out. He made me defensive coordinator. He gave me a chance to learn the game from a coaching standpoint,” said Lucas.

“Caring about his players was his philosophy. That rubbed off big time on me. When he let the kids know he cared about them, they certainly cared about playing for him.”

Whitley agreed.

“He was a tremendous guy. He was tremendous for me. I was 22 and everything I learned about coaching I learned from him. He had so much influence over so many coaches. He’ll be missed in a lot of ways,” said Whitley.