Remembering a coach
Ed Martin inducted into the Danville Register & Bee Hall Of Fame
Dec 7, 2002

Though legendary GW football coach Ed Martin passed away just over two years ago, his memory and legacy have not been forgotten.

By JOHN COSCIA
/ Register & Bee sports editor

DANVILLE, Va. - C-O-A-C-H.

Take one part teacher, one part parent and one part mentor.

Add one full measure of passion, a tremendous sense of pride and an unwavering dedication to principle.

Include family's secret ingredient, a dash of sensitivity.

Combine and stir until mixed well.

Serves up a lifetime of lessons to hundreds of youth.

And so you have it: A recipe of a coach, a real coach, Ed Martin.

Martin became the head football coach at George Washington High School in 1986 and remained in that position until his death on June 21, 2000.

"Ed Martin had a great coaching record, but his true legacy at GW will be the young men he coached and the many college scholarships that came from success on the football field," GW principal Joel DeBoe said at the time of Martin's death, which came suddenly. "I look at Ed Martin as a legend in this area, just like Alger Pugh and Sonny Wall. Ed Martin will be missed."

Missed, yes, but never forgotten.

And to ensure that he will be remembered for years to come the Danville Register & Bee has unanimously decided to induct Ed Martin into the Danville Register & Bee Hall of Fame. Joining Martin in the Class of 2002 are inductees Richard "Loose" Wells and Gordon Windhorn.

Martin's Vince Lombardi-like coaching style caused officials to cringe and opponents to squirm as he built a most impressive record, becoming the second winningest coach in the history of GW football. In fact his success during the decade of the '90s was unparalleled in the entire state of Virginia.

"I never saw an Ed Martin coached team lose a game due to lack of effort," longtime play-by-play WBTM radio announcer and news director, Chuck Vipperman said.

"They might get beat because they were not as talented as the other team but it was never because of a lack of trying."

Vipperman also noted that Martin was known for very well-structured practices "where hardly a minute was wasted." And noted that Martin was always most impressed by the players that were consistent.

"He expected players to give their all every play and accepted nothing less than total effort."

Longtime assistant coach, Everett Woods agreed.

"Ed's favorite saying always was, 'When you put that blue jersey on you better be ready to play.' We've continued to carry that saying into every GW game since then," Woods said.

Then there was the "real" Ed Martin.

The one not quite as easily discernable and often hidden beneath the Lombardi-like coach's headset.

In fact, it was only away from the field, outside of the watchful eye of fans, opponents, and at times, even his own players, that Martin's secret ingredient of sensitivity would come out.

Family was always No. 1 to Ed Martin.

"Eddie had a real heart. His family was his life," Woods said.

"That's one of the reasons why he took coaching so seriously. He felt when he lost he was taking food off of his family's table."

That family that Woods' referred to however, extended beyond his wife Debbie and his two boys, Sid and Scott.

Then there was his football family. All the coaches that were his "brothers" and the hundreds of players he saw as his "children."

"Eddie loved coaching so much that sometimes he hid his sensitive side. He felt like if the players saw that it might lessen his effectiveness. So he'd tell us to go do certain things for the kids," Woods said.

"It made it look like we were the good guys when in essence he was behind the whole thing."

One thing that Martin prided himself on more than any other was his ability to get players to move on to the next level.

"I can't tell you how many college application fees Eddie paid for out of his own pocket," Woods said.

Martin's wife, Debbie spoke first hand as to how much he loved the kids.

"I can remember the time he spent talking with Herman (Moore). He wasn't even playing football when we arrived at GW," Debbie said.

"His first year playing was as a junior. Eddie and Herman remained close friends. In fact they were supposed to play golf that same week that Eddie died."

The one trait that every great coach has is that of taking responsibility.

"Eddie never wanted the fans to blame the kids. He always bore the responsibility when the team lost and gave credit to the players when the team won," Debbie said.

From the moment that the Martin's moved to Danville it became their home.

"GW is what brought us here and it's what has kept us (Scott and I) here (since Ed's death). It's our home," Debbie said.

The X's and O's that Coach Ed Martin once scribbled on a blackboard have long since been erased.

And yet, to the lives that he touched, and there were many, one message has been permanently etched - "Family First."

As impressive as his coaching numbers proved to be, it is the lives that Coach Ed Martin touched and the difference that he made in those lives, which in the end will prove to be his real legacy.

For each and every boy that ever wore GW blue, Ed Martin was, and will forever be, more than just his coach. He was their mentor, their teacher and above all, a part of their family.

And in the end that will prove to be Ed Martin's living legacy - His family was No. 1.