Paul Gay, a longtime Lee County High School Yellow Jackets football head coach who led the team to multiple championships in the 1960s and 70s, died on Wednesday. He was 90.
Gay served as head football coach from 1960, when the school was still known as Sanford Central High School, through the early 1980s. He led the team to multiple state championships, including at least two years in which the team was undefeated. He also coached other sports and served for a time as athletic director for the school. The football stadium at Lee County High School is named in his honor.
“If he was your coach and he said you could be all state, you were all state,” said local attorney Norman “Chip” Post Jr., who played for Gay in 1971 and 1972. “He just had that much respect and influence.”
Post said Yellow Jacket football was “a big deal” during Gay’s tenure.
“That stadium was packed out every Friday night,” he said. “Coach Gay had a big influence on a lot of kids.”
Longtime former Yellow Jacket baseball coach Charlie Spivey played for Gay and went on to coach alongside him early in his career. But he knew him for much longer before that.
“My dad drove the activity bus for all the sports then, so I would go to football practice and watch him when I was 10 or 11,” Spivey said. “I was really in awe. He was way ahead of his time, and his film sessions were legendary. We probably knew more about the other team than they did themselves.”
Spivey is retired from coaching but still looks after the facilities at Lee County High School. He said seeing Gay’s name on the football stadium has always been a reminder of his greatness.
“When I mow that football field, I look up and see his name and it always brings back memories,” he said. “Now that he’s gone, it’ll mean so much more.”
A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Luke United Methodist Church. The family will greet friends in the Davenport Christian Life Center from 1 to 2:45 p.m. before the service.