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SPORTS YEAR IN REVIEW: Coach of the Year – RMS Coach Larry Gilmer earns national recognition

Coaching middle school football is a passion for Russellville Middle School Coach Larry Gilmer – and now it’s something for which he’s been nationally-recognized.

Dove Men+Care Deodorant and the College Football Hall of Fame recognized the Gilmer with a surprise pep rally to present him with the Dove Men+Care Deodorant Caring Coach of the Year Award. The recognition celebrates “the ways in which his care has been a positive force in his community for the last two decades.”

A film crew was in town to create a documentary about Gilmer. The filming included time on Monday when former players read letters to Gilmer to thank him for his impact on their lives. The coach said he found it hard not to get emotional at the surprise tribute.

“As a coach, when you’re dealing with seventh and eighth grade kids, you don’t know if what you’re saying is really sinking in,” Gilmer said. “For them to come back and take time out of their jobs … to come back for me, to recognize me, was very special. I guess I did make an influence – I sure tried to. I love them – I’ll always love them.”

This is the second year Dove Men+Care Deodorant has presented such an award. Of hundreds of nominations from fans across the country, the brand selected four youth and high school football coaches who most strongly display the award’s criteria – identified as passion, determination, respect, support and encouragement – and make a lasting impression on the lives of their players and within their communities.

In addition to receiving the award at the celebratory pep rally, Gilmer and his nominator – Wes Richardson – will receive funding for the Russellville Middle School football team and a trip to Atlanta, Ga., in December to be honored by the College Football Hall of Fame.

For Gilmer’s part, he was rendered nearly speechless by the honor, which he called “overwhelming” and “flattering.”

“I can’t believe it. I really can’t,” Gilmer said.

He shared some of his philosophy on coaching – the very principles that pegged him for the award.

“We play to win – but it’s more important to me to be a good example and try to teach them how to be good young men, good daddies, good husbands and to be good people in the community. That’s more important to me than winning football games,” Gilmer said. “At the end of the day, wins don’t matter. Turning these young men into good roles models is more important than winning football games.”