Football

Obituary, Football history of Winfield Coach Leon McCoy

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WINFIELD, W.Va. — Leon McCoy, 88, of Scott Depot, W.Va., passed away on May 27, 2017.  He was born to the late Wava Sue Webb McCoy Toney in Jeffrey, Boone County, WV, on June 1, 1928, but grew up in the East End of Charleston. McCoy was an All-State football player at Charleston High School.

Afterward, he went to the University of Tennessee on a football scholarship in 1947, and then finished up at Morris Harvey (1949-51) where he was an All-American football player in 1950, 3-time All-West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference first team selection and graduated in 1952. McCoy was also a United States heavyweight boxing champion of the South in 1950 and signed with the Detroit Lions of the National Football League in 1952.

McCoy started his coaching/teaching career at as an assistant coach at Charleston Central Catholic HS in 1953. He then took his first turn at Winfield High School from 1955-59, losing the state title in both 1958 and 1959. McCoy returned to coach at Charleston High School in 1960 but in 1962 went to Cocoa High School in Florida to coach/teach for seven years. In 1969, McCoy arrived back at Winfield High School to teach, coach, and mentor the many athletes, students, and co-workers where he led from the front with his well-known weightlifting program.

He was a lifetime member of Winfield Baptist Church where he served and lived his later life as a deacon and was an inspirational leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Winfield and the area. He was famous for his favorite lines of “If I could pray….” at graduation year after year and leading the cheer “Give me a W, give me an I …” at many Winfield sporting events.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife of 64 years, Betty L. Stewart McCoy, their children, Cathy Bailey (David) of Scott Depot and Bill Hughes (Linda) of Winfield; grandchildren, Brooke Smolder (Eddie) of Ripley and their children Braylie and Eddric, Brittany Harper (Dave) of Scott Depot and their children Betley and Cassidy, Amy Artrip (Brent) of Raleigh and their children Eric and Ian, and John Grass (Kristi) of Raleigh and his children Tori, Sera, and Jack; and many people who were loved like family.

When Marshall Football Coach Doc Holliday was introduced as the Thundering Herd’s new coach in December 2009, McCoy was in the audience, proudly celebrating him as one of his own. “He had such a tremendous influence, not just on me, but for so many (others) involved with high school football in our state,” Holliday said in a statement Marshall released a day after McCoy passed away. “He allowed numerous student-athletes from around the area, including me, to work out with his Winfield program regardless of the school they represented. Diana and I will miss him dearly.” Holliday’s father, Judge Holliday of Putnam County, and McCoy were frequent visitors at practice in Doc’s early years at MU.

A celebration of Coach McCoy’s life was at 6 p.m. on May 31 (one day before a June 1 birthday for McCoy that would have made him 89) at Winfield High School’s football stadium with Pastor David Johns officiating. The Winfield football field looked like a Friday night in September as the community remembers the life of former football coach Leon McCoy, as over 3,000 were in attendance.

“They had everything just like it was Friday night,” McCoy’s son-in-law, long-time Winfield girls track coach and former quarterback at Winfield and Poca High Schools David Bailey told MetroNews. “We had a service on Wednesday which was really a celebration of his life.” Former players, assistant coaches, trainers and cheerleaders formed two columns from the 50-yard line to the hearse for McCoy’s coffin to pass through, then a packed house inside the WHS commons area made its way to speak with family members.

Some players, coaches, and managers who returned included Billy Coffman (driving up from South Carolina), Jim Frazier, Steve Spence, John Taylor, Rob Cunningham, Gunner Pendleberry, Mark Smith, Mike Barber, Brett Chandler, Harry Wallace, Jim Woodrum, Bill Woodrum, Dewayne Harless, and too many others to list here.

“We did what he always loved best and that was ‘Give me a W cheer’ right on the field as his casket was carried by pallbearers,” Bailey said. That group included former Winfield player/long-time football assistant coaches Dick Goff and Greg Julian, Doc Holliday, WHS teacher and former basketball coach Danny Mullens and former General point guard and assistant baseball coach Freddie Wright among a dozen or so bearers. “That’s how he was and that’s what he stood for. He loved Winfield High School,” Bailey said.

A reception followed in the High School’s commons area. Trophies, Mementos, undefeated teams pictures, and great players’ pictures who played under McCoy are on display in the commons area along with all the state championship trophies in football, girls soccer, basketball, track, and other sports. A private family burial was at Sunset Memorial Park, South Charleston on June 1. On Thursday morning, June 1, an event to honor the beloved coach at the Winfield High School Football Field at 7 a.m. was offered for the student body to attend before the last day of school by the family. The volunteer event was called, “If I Could Pray Day.”

The family strongly suggests that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made in Coach McCoy’s name to the Leon McCoy Scholarship Fund, Winfield High School Athletic Department, Winfield High School, 11268 Winfield Road, Winfield, W.Va., 25213.

The family would like to express their appreciation to Randy Hodges, Dr. Tom Rittinger and the Intensive Care nurses at CAMC Teays Valley Hospital and to Chapman Funeral Home, 3941 Teays Valley Road Hurricane-Winfield Road, Winfield and in St. Albans. Chapman’s is honored to assist Coach McCoy’s family.

A Life In Football: Leon McCoy, Morris Harvey College 1952

Winfield legend Leon McCoy in his weight room at WHS

Winfield legend Leon McCoy in his Winfield weight room at WHS. (WinfieldSportsNetwork.com courtesy photo)

1944-46 McCoy was a Charleston High School Mountain Lion center and linebacker (20-10-3) for Coaches Lyle Rich (’44, 8-2-2), Eddie King (’45, 7-2-1), and Jake Moser (1946, 5-6), and McCoy was second team All-State as junior and first team All-State as senior. No playoffs in state football championships until 1947 season.

1947 University of Tennessee, starting center for seven games. Transferred at end of first year, sitting out in 1948 while taking classes at Morris Harvey College.

1949-51 McCoy is a center and linebacker for the Golden Eagles of Morris Harvey.

1949 Morris Harvey College player for the team that won the WVIAC title (3-1 in league), 7-2-2 overall for Coach Eddie King. McCoy had two interceptions on defense at linebacker, center on offense, and was All-WVIAC first team as sophomore.

1950 MHC won WVIAC (5-0), 10-0 overall and unofficial Small College National Champion when Morris Harvey beat Emory & Henry in the Jan. 1, 1951, at the 5th Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla. McCoy, with an interception (in the Tangerine Bowl) and a fumble recovery on defense, was first team All-WVIAC and second-team Associated Press “Little” All-American (for small college players, like Jackie Hunt at Marshall). The team has 7-0 shutout of Kent State and outscored opponents, 42-6, on average.

1951 MHC wins WVIAC (4-0), 6-3-1 overall, and beat Lebanon Valley College, 27-21, in the Burley Bowl in Johnson City, Tenn. One loss was 19-0 shutout at Homecoming Game at Laidley Field in front of 9,000 fans. McCoy won first team WVIAC honors for the third season in a row. Later, he was named as the center on the 1963 All-time Morris Harvey team, selected by the Sunday Gazette-Mail, as part of West Virginia’s 100th Year Centennial. Those Golden Eagles teams were 23-5-3 over his three years, winning two bowls and the small college national title in 1950. He was one of five men named an All-Americans from 1939-56, when the school dropped football until 2003 as the rebranded University of Charleston, but still Golden Eagles.

Later, he was named as the center on the 1963 All-time Morris Harvey team, selected by the Sunday Gazette-Mail, as part of West Virginia’s 100th Year Centennial. Those Golden Eagles teams were 23-5-3 over his three years, winning two bowls and the small college national title in 1950. He was one of five men named an All-Americans from 1939-56, when the school dropped football until 2003 as the rebranded University of Charleston, but still Golden Eagles.

In 1952, McCoy signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Lions.

Charleston (W.Va.) Catholic Assistant Coach, 1953-54

Winfield Head Coach, 1955-59 (BOLD for title game appearance season)

1955 4-5-1

1956 9-1

1957 8-2

1958 Class A lost to Meadow Bridge in Championship, 6-0 (9-0 regular season)

1959 Class A lost to Ravenswood in Championship, 15-13 (9-0 regular season)

1960-61 McCoy moved back to his alma mater, Charleston (W.Va.) High School, and was 9-10-1 with the Mountain Lions over two years. His teams were 3-6-1 in 1960 but improved to 6-4 in 1961.

The program McCoy had built at Winfield High School won Class A football titles in 1960 (20-13 over Alderson), 1961 (19-13 over Williamstown) and 1963 (26-13 over Northfork-Elkhorn).

1962-68 at Cocoa Beach, Florida, High School, and the team played in the “Space Bowl” in 1966-67-68 against their main rivals from Satellite HS.

Winfield legend Leon McCoy dressed up

Winfield legend Leon McCoy dressed up, a rarity seeing the former coach in a tie except in the classroom and at church. (Courtesy photo from McCoy family)

1969-89 and 1994, McCoy was the Head Coach for football and track at Winfield Head Coach as well as teaching Social Studies. His record was 219-83-2 combined at Winfield/Charleston, but  210-73-1 as WHS Head Coach with two state titles, six trips to Class A (2) and Class AA (4) championship games. His Winfield teams were 10-9 in 11 playoff trips, but that was after a 0-5 start in playoffs (1958-59-69-77-82). In the years 1983-89, Winfield was 10-4 with two titles, beating Magnolia (twice), Poca, Tucker Co.(twice), Buffalo-Wayne (twice),  Chapmanville, University, and Grafton and had losses to C-K, Grafton and Bridgeport (twice).

1969 Class AA lost to Keyser in Championship, 21-20. A 10-0 regular season, 20 wins in a row with 10-0 year under Coach John Paul Hensley in 1968.

1970 and 1971 finished 10-0 in the regular season (Gary beat Oceana and C-K beat Oceana to win ’71 and ’72 AA titles). Win streak gets to 40 games won in a row in the regular season.

1972 and 1973, in both year the Generals finished 6-4. Sherman broke the Winfield 41-game regular season winning streak in the mud and rain of the second game of the year, at the new Winfield Stadium — new aluminum seats and a much better press box was part of the construction which also tore up the playing surface.

1976 Class AA. Winfield lost to Ravenswood in the first year of four teams advancing to state semifinals, a 28-0 loss to the Red Devils. 9-1 regular season (Ravenswood beat Big Creek for AA title).

1977 team finished 8-2, tied with four others who also missed playoffs (Putnam Co. rival Poca beat Man for AA title).

1982 Class AA lost to No. 3 Central Preston Co. in quarterfinals, 29-6, of the newly expanded playoffs (8 teams). 9-1 regular season (Musselman beat C-K for AA title).

1983 Class AA No. 3 Winfield beat Magnolia, 37-30 in quarterfinals, lost to C-K in semifinals, 30-8. 9-1 regular season (C-K beats Musselman for AA title).

1984 Class AA No. 2 Winfield lost to Grafton in a quarterfinal upset, 27-22. 9-1 regular season (Grafton beat Man for AA title).

1985 Class AA No. 1 Winfield beat Poca in quarterfinals, 47-14, beat Tucker County in semifinals, 12-0, and beat Buffalo-Wayne in AA Championship, 28-6 (regular season 10-0, final 13-0).

1986 Class AA Winfield upset No. 4 Chapmanville in quarterfinals, 21-20, lost to Bridgeport in semifinals, 10-8 (9-1 regular season; Bridgeport beat Tucker County for AA title).

1987 Class AA No. 1 Winfield beat University in quarterfinals, 29-7, beat Grafton in semifinals, 42-6, and beat Tucker County in AA Championship, 48-14 (regular season 10-0, final 13-0).

1988 Class AA No. 3 Winfield beat Buffalo-Wayne in quarterfinals, 33-7, beat No. 2 Magnolia in semifinals, 27-19, lost the AA Championship to Bridgeport in 4OTs, 29-28. 9-1 in the regular season 9-1, final record 11-2.

1989 McCoy was 5-5 in his final year before retiring in spring of 1990.

1994 He stepped in for one year when Winfield needed a coach on interim basis and Generals went 3-7 in that year under McCoy.

With Coach McCoy retired as coach and full-time teacher in 1990 (35 years of teaching/coaching), he worked as a sub and ran the weight room until just this past year. The football stadium was named for him a few years ago, and the track is the David Bailey track for his nine State Championships in girls track at Winfield.

Winfield did not return to AA football playoffs until 2000 (losing in quarterfinals to Iaeger, 36-7, after first round upset of No. 3 Clay County). The Generals suffered first round loss in 2004 (35-12 by No. 3 Ravenswood), in 2005 (61-7 by No. 2 James Monroe), and in 2016 (No. 6 James Monroe, 38-28). With the drop back to AA in 2016 from AAA, the Generals may be poised to return to the glory days of football like they saw under Coach Leon McCoy, who is a member of the W.Va. Sportswriters Athletic Hall of Fame (housed at the Charleston Civic Center) and the North-South Football Hall of Fame.

About Woody Woodrum

Senior Editor and columnist/writer for Herd Insider since 2003, with Kindred Communications on radio for Marshall football/men's basketball pregame and postgame shows since 1996 and with First Sentry Bank Sportsline (Also Scott on Sports, Sideline Sports and Herd Insider Sportsline) since 1997. Married to Liz (12-22-1990) and one son, Tre' (11-7-1997). National Sportswriters & Sportscasters West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year winner for radio, 2000; won W.Va. Broadcasters Best Talk Show in 2013 with co-host Paul Swann and W.Va. Broadcasters Best Play-by-Play in 2015 with Jason Toy (Huntington at South Charleston, state AAA semifinals). Member of (College) Football Writers Association of America, (College) Basketball Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Color commentator for Marshall football (1999-2000), for Marshall basketball (2004-2016) and Marshall baseball (2004-2016). Color for high school football at Spring Valley (1999-2008), Cabell Midland (2009-2012) and Huntington (W.Va.) High School (2013-2016).