Entering his 40th and final year as a Knox County Schools educator and coach of several high school sports, Ben Lyle took time to reflect after Farragut High School brass held a ceremony — presenting him a plaque “of appreciation” — to mark his many accomplishments.
Lives touched and teenagers mentored by Lyle have spanned more than 30 years at FHS alone. Lyle enters his 15th and final school year as a driver’s education teacher at Farragut. He also taught 19 years of English — 10 at FHS — and six years of general science.
“I’ve been really blessed my whole life,” Lyle, 61, said following the ceremony, led by Ryan Siebe, principal, and Donald Dodgen, athletic director, during a teachers/coaches meeting Thursday morning, Aug. 3. “I often ask God, ‘why me, why have I had such a good life?’ … I’ve been fortunate to work for so many great people.
“This is a wonderful place, it’s been a blessing to be here all these years. The people at Farragut are just tremendous. My wife [Carla Lyle] actually works out here,” Lyle, a Farragut resident for 16 years, added.
A 1973 graduate of Doyle High School, Lyle received special incentive to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in English from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
With a lifelong love of sports while “blessed with speed” as a youth athlete, despite being hampered by injuries during high school, “I decided I wanted to be a sportswriter, so I started out in the College of Communications,” Lyle said.
Around 1975, “Bob Woodward came to speak at UT,” Lyle said.
Recalling Woodward was an English major in college, Lyle said the famed journalist told the young aspiring journalists, “’You can only do one thing, basically, with a journalism degree. You can do a lot of different things with an English degree.”
“That made sense to me,” Lyle said.
With a coaching career highlighted by two stints as offensive coordinator for the FHS Admirals varsity football team, Lyle got
his first taste of coaching while in college.
Jim McClain, then football head coach at Doyle, “was one of the primary coaches around here,” Lyle said. “… I went out there as a sophomore at UT and asked if they could use me, that I was maybe interested in coaching football.
“And that’s how it started. … I started coaching freshmen at Doyle High School,” he added. “I still thought maybe I’d be a sportswriter, but once I started coaching I loved it.”
Also earning his teaching certification, Lyle stayed with his roots in South Knox County when his education career began in the 1978-79 school year.
“I actually taught at Doyle Middle School and helped the [varsity high school] football coach there,” Lyle said about his one year there. “In those days the middle school was across the street from the high school.”
“I believe coach Lyle has coaches nine different sports” also including golf, wrestling and basketball, Dodgen said during the ceremony.
After Doyle Middle, Lyle taught English and coached at Karns High School for eight years before coming to FHS in 1987-88 school year.
“I was looking to move when coach [Buddy] Fisher got the job,” Lyle said about the Admirals varsity football head coach from 1987 through 1995. “I knew coach Fisher because he was one of the coaches when I was a sophomore at Doyle. Plus he was my driver’s ed teacher.”
Lyle said his special bond with Fisher is, in part, because “we’re so much alike,” Lyle, Admirals offensive coordinator under Fisher from 1989 through 1995, said.
“Ben has been a true friend to me personally,” Eddie Courtney, FHS varsity football head coach, said. “The biggest thing is I knew I could always count on Ben because of the kind of person he is. He cares about kids, and has done a great job coaching.”