If I ever had any doubts about what impact a high school coach could make on lives, those doubts vanished Friday night.
I spent two of the most enjoyable hours possible with former Danville football coach Ray Callahan and those who came to honor him on his induction Saturday night into the Danville Schools Athletics Hall of Fame. Callahan coached four years at Danville and led the Admirals to the 1962 state title, the school’s first state championship.
Callahan, who went on to coach in college and the NFL, was touched by those who came, including many from Lebanon where he grew up. He said in all his coaching stops, the only place he ever wished he could come back and do it again was Danville because of the players who played for him.
One of those players, Roger Prall, couldn’t make the trip. But he sent a letter for former teammate Johnny Jackson, who helped organize the reunion, read.
Here’s part of it that helps explain what impact Callahan had:
“My journey started as a student at Parksville until the 10th grade when tragedy struck our family with the passing of my father. I was 16. My mother was forced to leave the farm to work in Danville, doing her best to support four children. I was so scared having to move to Danville. I will never forget the day Ray Callahan came to Parksville knowing my mother was moving to Danville and telling me everything would be okay. He told me if you can catch a basketball, you can catch a football, and boy did it all work out.
“Coach Ray got me involved in football and introduced me to coach Stick Cottrell. From that point on, it was a fast track enrolling in Danville and playing football and basketball. We went on to have a great winning season my junior year and winning the state our senior year. I was thrilled to be part of the Danville program made possible by the coaches and many students who accepted me as one of their own even though I was only there two years.”
Prall made all-state in football and honorable mention in basketball and track. He was offered scholarships to play football and basketball by several schools including Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky and Tulane. He chose Eastern, married his “sweetheart” Vicky Jacobs while at Eastern and his a sales and marketing real estate business.
“All the wonderful people of Danville will never realize the effect they and coach Callahan have had on my life,” Prall said.