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O’ Toole leaves rich legacy behind

Sports Columnist

A good friend of mine, Ed O’Toole, died in Birmingham last week. He was 64.

Ed was the father of Mike and Danny O’Toole, who coached and played for Troy State in the mid and late ’80s. Danny of course placed quarterback under Chan Gailey and Rick Rhoades from 1983-986 and was a member of the 1984 National Championship team that beat North Dakota State 18-17 on Ted Clem’s 50-yard buzzer-beating field goal.

Mike played football under "Bear" Bryant at Alabama before coming to Troy State as a secondary coach in the late ’80s. both were outstanding young people. I met Ed back in 1967 when he was an assistant coach under Morris Higginbotham and then Paul Terry at Enterprise High School., he left there to become head coach at Hewytown High School in Birmingham for a few years. He took over his dad’s engineering company in the early ’70s and ran the family business until he became ill this past May. He died from complications from a stroke.

A former halfback under Bobby Bowden at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, O’Toole signed a football scholarship to play football at Alabama in 1958. He left Alabama a year later to go back to Birmingham to play for Bowden who had taken the coaching job at Howard University (now Samford University). He later coached with Bowden at Howard and was on the staff in 1961 when the Bulldogs humiliated roy State Red Wave 80-0 in Memorial Stadium.

Ed and I stayed friends and worked together on some projects when I was in state government.

When Danny signed with Troy State in 1983, Ed and his wife, Linda, the former Linda Williams, his college sweetheart from Birmingham, started spending a lot of time in Troy.

We became very close friends and spent a lot of time together going to TSU football games.

I can’t count the times I visited the O’Tooles in their home in Palmerdale, a suburb of Birmingham. There I watched and listened to the way a real family is supposed to act and carry themselves. They were as loving to each other and their lord as a family could be. Their loyalty to each other stood out in everything they did.

I don’t know if I’ve ever visited in a warmer environment. Even my children noticed when we’d visit or gather at a game together they made us feel like a part of their family. It was very evident in everything they did that they put God first in their life.

There was always prayer before they ate, whether they were tailgating or in a fast-food restaurant. I envied them the way they raised their children. They taught their kids to be respectful of others, especially grown-ups. You could not ask for any finer young people. They didn’t follow the crowd, even in college. They were completely satisfied with who they were and where they came from.

Today is a sad time for them because the leader of their family, Ed, is no longer with them. Ed was one of the most positive and sure-of-himself people I’ve ever known. He was the type guy that if you played golf with him, he took no mercy; if you talked trivia, played fiddlesticks or talked his favorite subject of football, he’d want to come out on top. If you didn’t have a good sense of humor, you’d have a hard time being around him. But at the same time, if he was your friend he was a joy to be around.

One of Ed’s last thoughts was a "thumbs-up" to Mike when he was told that his son had been named defensive coordinator at Samford University.

Hundreds of friends filed in to Ed’s favorite place other than his home, Palmerdale Methodist Church, for the funeral. Coach Bowden, probably Ed’s best friend along with Johnny Howell, was there with many others who got to know him during the Birmingham era. There were very few big football games that Coach Bowden coached in that Ed was not on the sidelines. They had a great friendship and respect for each other

Ed leaves his precious wife, Linda, who made such a home for him; his sons, Mike and Danny; and darling daughter kelly. Each have three children who resemble Ed so much.

The O’Toole home was a sad place on New Year’s Day. They’d lost a very important person in their lives. But Ed knew when it was his time and called them all together one last time. He died with his life by his side, that wonderful family that has so much love to give each other.

Ed O’Toole died a lucky man and his legacy will live on through them and their children for generations to come.

Thanks for listening to my eulogy to my friend. It was what was on my mind and I needed to tell someone about that special person and family.