KNOXVILLE, TENN. - “I remember laying in the hospital room and saying, there’s no way, there’s no way I could coach again."
Randy McKamey’s journey back to coach at his hometown in Clinton, Tennessee, almost didn’t happen. If it weren’t for he and his wife Kara’s faith, he may have walked away from the very sport associated with his son’s death.
"If there was any possible way to lose a child and feel as though it was part of the plan, we certainly experienced that," said Kara McKamey, Randy's wife.
Will McKamey was born on Jan. 2, 1995, the first of four kids.
He made an impact on the community and his family, especially his brother, Sam, who is in a wheelchair.
"Whether it was talking about something that happened at school or everyday necessities, he was always there," Sam said.
“We would say behind closed doors, he just seems different. He just seemed kind of special from the beginning,” Kara said.
Will played running back for Randy at Grace Christian Academy. He was self-motivated and naturally gifted. His hard work paid off big time when he graduated second in his class with a scholarship to play football for the Naval Academy.
“It’s simple. He was the best of the best. Exactly what you would think of when you think of a service academy football player. Just a great young man,” said Ashley Ingram, an assistant coach at Navy who recruited Will.
While in high school, Will suffered a ripped blood vessel in his brain but recovered and was cleared to return to football.
During a spring practice at Navy in March 2014, without explanation, it happened again.
This time Will didn't survive.
Within an hour and a half, the McKameys were in Annapolis by their son’s side, leaning on the academy community and their trust in a greater plan.
“It was the plan for Will McKamey to be here until he was 19, and to go to the academy and to die on March 25, we have to keep trusting that. And I think God’s been faithful in rewarding that trust by giving us the strength to go on," said Kara.
The McKameys now had the heartbreaking task of telling their children. It was one son’s child-like faith that would provide comfort and clarity.
"I said, 'guys, your brother got to meet Jesus today.' And Sam just threw his hands up in the air and he said, 'he’s with the Lord?' And it was just this moment of, you’re right Sam, yeah he’s with the Lord. We should all have a big smile on our face cause isn’t that the ultimate goal at the end of the day," said Kara.
"He just kept talking. He said everybody should just live like Will," said Randy.
Sam's words turned into a saying and a hashtag that revealed the enormous impact 19-year-old Will McKamey had on those around him.
"I don’t know that I really realized until he went to the Naval Academy and when he passed away how many people believed in him or just thought he was a great person," said Randy.
"Unfortunately for us he was able to reach more people through death than through being here," said Kara.
"He had a huge impact on me. We’ve got a 10-month-old baby, his name is William. I think that probably speaks volumes,” said Ingram.
“When he told me, he came to recruit this area and came to spring practice, I could tell something was on his mind or his heart. And he just told me very quickly and got in his car and left," said Randy.
“What he said was, my wife’s expecting and if it’s a boy, we’re going to name him Will. I just knew then it would be," said Kara.
Will’s story continues to live on and because of his son, Randy continues to coach.
"I just heard Will saying, 'Dad, this is what you do. This is your platform, you didn’t coach because of me,'" said Randy.
In December 2016, Randy left Grace Christian, where he didn’t have a single losing season during a decade as the Rams head coach. It’s now time for a new journey.
He’s setting out to rebuild the football program at his alma mater. Clinton High School has had just three winning seasons in nearly two decades.
“Who doesn’t want to go back to their high school and be their head coach and try to rebuild a program that’s been struggling and build something from, I wouldn’t say nothing because Clinton’s been very successful, they’ve just fallen on some hard times," said Randy.
“He had to leave to grow and he’s done that, and through all that he’s been through, he wants to come back and to be a part of the Dragon program, it’s exactly what we needed," said Wimp Shoopman, former Clinton mayor.
"We’re a family and we grow and we stay together and when we part as we leave school, we remember those things and that’s community," Shoopman said. "That’s home. That’s Randy McKamey.”
The first in a series of sports-related mini-documentaries produced by the WBIR 10Sports department.
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