Garner Ezell
Class of 2024

Garner Ezell

Like father like son. Garner Ezell knew early on he wanted to emulate his dad. Ezell’s father was a former college football player at Middle Tennessee State University and was an assistant football coach at Lawrence County (TN) high school when Ezell was an elementary school student. Ezell couldn’t wait when school was dismissed so he could walk across the street to watch his dad’s team practice. “I fell in love with sports early on in my life especially football,” said the 2024 Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame inductee. “Since my dad was a coach at Lawrence County High School, I had easy access to football practices and I took in as much knowledge as I could. I would even wander into the offensive huddles just to hear what plays were being called. As a young kid, I knew football was in my blood and I wanted to follow the career pathway my father took.”

By the time Ezell reached high school, his father was named head football coach at Loretta (TN) High School. Ezell would become the starting quarterback under his father and was named the Mustangs team MVP following his senior season.

His high school career complete, Ezell began searching for a college to attend. He accepted an offer to walk-on at the University of North Alabama and play football for coach Micky Andrews and the Lions. Ezell begin his career at UNA buried on the quarterback depth chart. Undeterred and following a string of injuries, Ezell quickly moved up the depth chart. Ezell earned a scholarship after his freshmen season and was the Lions starting quarterback during his sophomore season leading the team to a 6-4 record. He would again serve as the Lions starting quarterback the following season but a coaching change before his senior season would change Ezell’s final year in the UNA program. “Coach Andrews took the job as defensive coordinator at Clemson following my junior year. Coach (Wayne) Grubb took over the program. He made changes like any first-year coach does when taking over a program. I saw my playing time diminish but I wanted to keep a good attitude and do what Coach Grubb asked. I still wanted to be a good teammate,” said Ezell. His senior year complete, Ezell was honored as a recipient of UNA’s ‘Hall of Fame Award’ which goes to a UNA student who fulfills their scholastic goal with honor and who made outstanding contributions to the university through non-academic organizations.

By playing college football, the first step in following his father’s career path was now complete. Ezell now looked to complete the final step by entering the coaching profession. He earned his first coaching job in 1978 as he was named assistant football coach and offensive coordinator at Lexington High School. Two years later, he was named the school’s head football coach. Ezell would lead Lexington to a playoff appearance during his first year with the school. He would record a 16-4 record as head coach at Lexington before accepting the position as head football coach at Cherokee High School. He would coach at Cherokee HS for three years leading the program to a state semi-finals berth in 1984 and a quarter-finals berth in 1985. His 1985 team would win 12 games, the first in school history. In 1984, the Alabama Sportswriters Association named Ezell the 3A Alabama Football Coach of the Year.

Athens High School had a job opening for head football coach following the 1985 season and Ezell applied for the job. “I knew about the rich football tradition at Athens High School, “said Ezell. “My interview with the Athens High principal Marvin Clem and the board went great and I got the job. “Athens is a special place. My wife and I immediately fell in love with the community.”

It didn’t take long for Ezell to make an immediate impact on the proud Athens HS football program. The Eagles had been 5-5 the previous season before Ezell’s arrival. One of Ezell’s players on the 1986 team was starting tackle Greg Greenhaw who said the first-year coach made a quick impression on the team. “Coach Ezell brought a lot of discipline with him. He never used a cuss word nor would he allow his players to cuss. Coach Ezell was all business and he expected us to be that way. He was very organized and stressed repetition and execution. We never did anything half speed or Coach Ezell would let us know about. Our team respected what Coach Ezell stood for. He was a good coach no doubt, but he was a better man. Coach Ezell served as great role model to his players,” said Greenhaw. The 1986 season would be a special year for the Golden Eagles. The team would record a 10-2 record and reached the second round of the playoffs. That season would set in motion a career that would see Ezell amass a 79-34 record in leading the Athens High School football program. His winning percentage of .700 is the highest winning percentage of any head football coach that coached at Athens High School for a minimum of 10 years. When discussing his induction into this year’s LCSHOF, Ezell humbly says he wasn’t aware of the record. “When you think about the great tradition of Athens High School football and all of the great coaches like Coach (Ferman) Elmore and Coach (Larry) McCoy, all you want to do is to make sure that tradition continues. I was blessed with a lot of great assistants and players during my years coaching football. It is a great honor to be inducted into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame but it is the culmination of efforts by a lot of people that I am able to receive this award. I was fortunate to be part of a great program like Athens High School and I am proud of the way our players competed and handled themselves on and off the field,” said Ezell.

Ezell would record an overall head coaching record of 119-51 in 15 years of coaching high school football. He now serves as the curriculum coordinator for Athens City schools. While Ezell hasn’t roamed the sidelines in decades, the family tradition has continued as a third generation of Ezell’s have entered the football coaching profession. Ezell’s sons Rob (Offensive Coordinator at the University of South Alabama) and David (assistant football coach at Athens High School) are following their father and grandfather in leading young men on the gridiron.