Remembering the legacy of Coach Shannon at 99 years old

Remembering+the+legacy+of+Coach+Shannon+at+99+years+old

Jocelyn Leal, Editor-in-Chief

“Trailblazer”

“Godsend”

Just two of the words used to describe former football coach Eddie Shannon, who has always been a pivotal member of the community, both on and off the field. Shannon just celebrated his 99th birthday, and it is important to remember the legacy he left behind at Manatee High.

Shannon started his high school coaching career at Lincoln Memorial High School in 1953, coaching their 16 years before coming to Manatee in 1969, where he coached for 18 years and helped coach the team to four state championships. But for Shannon, life was more difficult than moving a ball down the football field.

1969 was the first year that schools were officially integrated in Manatee County, so when Lincoln Memorial- an all black school at the time- was turned into a middle school, the students were separated between Manatee, Palmetto, and Southeast High Schools. Shannon was one of the first to make the move with them to Manatee. He became an important figure that helped with school integration, forcing the football players to learn how to play together- no matter their skin color- if they wanted to win.

Shannon made sure that all of the players were united toward the common goal of getting better everyday and winning a state championship, which led to them becoming like family.

“You could see the camaraderie that those guys have, you can see the family orientation that they have together, the unity that they brought. He instilled that and made sure that if you’re going to be a part of this you are going to have that family bond and that’s what they thrive on and that’s what they’re built on,” said Coach Ricky Simmons, who played under Shannon’s instruction from 1971 to 1975.

Shannon was not just a coach to Simmons, either. They took this feeling of family to the next level by being godfather and godson, and Simmons said that Shannon was like a father to him, helping him

become both a better player, but also a better person.

He demanded respect from his players both on and off the field, a task that consisted of constant work at practices and games, but also meant he went around to players’ homes to enforce a curfew on the nights before big practices or games. However, this was also met with utmost respect for his players, who he trusted to execute their job and play with ferocity in every game. Because of this, Shannon was a trusted adult in a time of uncertainty.

“He would speak things that made you feel as if you could run through a wall and be okay… there is no doubt when he said it that he had all the trust in you and all the belief in you, even if nobody else did he made you feel like you were that guy, you were that person,” said Coach Simmons.

Most students today do not know the extent of Manatee’s racially divided past, but it is important to remember that in 1969, the year that Shannon started, there were race riots between students. But with his influence and this trust and respect that Shannon earned from his students, he was the one called in to calm everyone down. He treated everyone the same, no matter the color of their skin, and as Simmons said “he never looked down upon you, but always looked at you as a person who could thrive and be better.” This is just another example of how much Shannon contributed to the community as a whole.

He offered mentoring and guidance to his players when needed, and Simmons said that there are still old players of his today that come by just to talk to him. This legacy of coaching, but also helping his players become better people is what has stuck with the community, as it truly shaped what Manatee High School is today.

And even at 99 years-old Coach Shannon remembers his days on the football field, he remembers his effect on his players and how it feels to win four state championships. He remembers playing football himself and all the adrenaline that came with it, and how he could pass it along to players after him. He has his awards, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia all around his home as a constant reminder of what he helped create. So it is important that Manatee not forget the legacy that he left behind, one of respect, family, and heart that it took to always get better.