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FHS letter about coach wins contest
Letter from junior receiver about Courtney earns Fox award; Peach Bowl tickets offered to coach

Winning a letter-writing contest, Farragut High School junior football player A.J. Reust perhaps proves that strong subject matter often wins out over style.

Saying that English and writing “are actually one of my weaker“ areas as an FHS student, Reust nevertheless won a weekly regional contest sponsored by Fox SportsSouth network, which included a handful of area southern states.

Reust, an Admiral football wide receiver, said it’s “the first big thing” he has ever won. As for his writing skills, “I’m creative, but I’m not too good. ... I don’t think I needed a lot of writing skills to win the contest with the story I had.”

The subject matter was his football coach, Eddie Courtney, and the varsity head coach’s successful but grinding battle with Hodgkin’s disease while leading the Admirals to its best season since 1995.

Saying he “always respected” Courtney prior to the discovery of his cancer, “This just made me respect him more …,” said Reust, who won four Peach Bowl tickets as the main prize. “I just felt that he did something special for us, so I thought I might do something special for him. I know he worked really hard, so I thought maybe this would be the best way to repay him.”

Required by contest rules to be 100 words or less, Reust’s letter, comprised in about 75 words, reads as follows:

My coach this year was more [courageous] than anyone I know. This year my coach was diagnosed with [Hodgkin’s] disease. Instead of [lying] down and giving up he fought through the season. Although he had to undergo chemo, he didn't miss a practice. This season he delivered us to the third round of the playoffs and is [now cancer] free. He was a Hero to the team and to the school. He showed everyone that giving up was not an option. He put his faith in the Lord and prevailed victorious. He is a true hero.

Reust offered the tickets to Courtney, who accepted them subject to his ability to free up time for the Friday, Dec. 30 game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome between the LSU Tigers and Miami Hurricanes. “That’s why I entered the contest,” the 16-year-old said, adding that the coach “was very surprised, very gracious, very happy.

“He asked me if he can’t go to take some of my teammates.”

Courtney said taking those teammates “would mean as much to me as anything.”

As for the letter, “I thought it was tremendous, it totally caught me off-guard,” Courtney said. “But I’m glad for him. The wording of it meant a lot to me.”

Seeing a Fox SportsSouth television promotion for the contest during the college football recruiting show “Countdown to Signing Day” Thursday, Dec. 8, “I thought it was perfect,” Reust said. The FHS junior said he got word about winning Monday night, Dec. 12, through e-mail. In addition to the tickets, Reust won other Peach Bowl-related prizes: four tickets to Fanfest and $100 gift certificate to Fox Sports Grill.


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