Jack Holley ’63 led his high school football teams to 412 victories, more than any other coach in North Carolina. A legend in the southeastern part of the state, he mentored hundreds of students and coaches during a 44-year career on the sidelines.
Jack died May 20 at the age of 74 at home in Teachey, N.C., after battling a chronic form of leukemia. His funeral was held on the 50-yard line of Legion Stadium in Wallace, N.C.
His coaching career began as a student football assistant at Guilford under head coach Herb Appenzeller. He played two seasons at fullback for the Quakers, spent two years in the military, and moved to offensive line upon his return.
“You always knew he was going to be a winner,” Herb recalled in an interview with Wilmington StarNews. “He had the ability to run the right offense and he was just tenacious in all he did.
“He had the determination to succeed. He also was kind of a mentor for a lot of young players, and he also was always true to his principles and beliefs.”
In addition to football, Jack was a letter winner in baseball and basketball at Guilford. He received the Undergraduate Athletic Award in 1961 and was inducted to the Guilford College Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1978.
He won 80 percent of his games as a high school football coach at five different schools, compiling an all-time record of 412-96-9. In 2008 he won a state independent school championship with Harrells Christian Academy.
A successful coach of basketball as well as football, Jack was inducted to the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and was honored with Appreciation Days by the towns of Tabor City, Wallace and Rose Hill.
“The one thing about Jack was he embodied everything sports is supposed to be about: honesty, character and heart,” lifelong friend and former NFL quarterback Roman Gabriel told the StarNews. “That was Jack Holley. They only made one of him and he will be missed.”