I met Jay Ingram for the first time in the summer of 1993. He was a high school student in the youth group that I had just been hired to lead. (Despite the fact that I was only 21 years old and had no idea how to lead a youth group) The kid smiled. All the time. There was something in his eyes. Like his soul was burning on a kind of fuel that most other kids his age didn’t have access to. He was a soccer player, and a damn good one. There was an intensity to him, and a passion for life that was unique and refreshing. But he didn’t take himself, or others, too seriously. He was funny. Small in stature, he possessed the heart of a warrior. Competitive to the core, he would battle on the soccer field, ping pong table, swimming pool, anywhere, anything. It didn’t matter. He had to win. And he usually did.

He graduated high school and began pouring his life into coaching. He coached soccer and got a degree from Georgia State University. He kept coaching. Kept competing. Kept winning. He found love and married Corinne. And in time they brought two children into the world. Aiden Lynn and Kailyn Danielle. He worked as the P.E. teacher at Kennesaw Charter School. They called him, simply, “Coach.” Coach was up every morning at 4 a.m. He would run for an hour or so, and then when he arrived back home, he would spend the remainder of his time before school reading the scriptures and a daily devotion. Each day he would post a particular thought from his devotional on Facebook for the encouragement of others.

While other men his age were flaming out in their marriages, Jay was busy fighting to make his marriage the best it could be. While most of his peers were busy building a portfolio, or a client base, or a reputation, Coach was helping to build a school. While others were consumed with financial investments, Coach was investing in the lives of the children and young ladies who were under his guidance. He listened to them. And because he listened, they listened to him. They learned and grew, not just as athletes, but as young people. And Coach just kept smiling, kept competing, kept building, kept investing, kept winning.

Early Thursday, Coach never returned from his early morning run. Never got to do his devotional or take his children to school. He was hit by a car about a quarter of a mile from his neighborhood. He would spend the next day and a half in the ICU at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, just about six miles away from Kennesaw Charter Science and Math Academy where he taught. There was an outpouring of love and support, and a steady stream of visitors, each of whom had a story or multiple stories about how Jay had impacted their life. Even hospital employees told of how Coach had made an impression on their children who attended his school. Every person united in their belief that if anyone could fight back from these severe injuries, it would be him.

Jay Ingram died today. He was one month from reaching 33 years of age. As I struggle with how to make sense of it all, the wife and kids he leaves behind, the family and friends that love him so, the children and teenagers who adore him, and why God would allow this to happen, I’m also learning some things. I’m learning that heroes don’t always wear capes and that not all giants are tall in stature. Sometimes heroes wear a coach’s whistle and Crocs, and sometimes giants are 5′ 6″. I was reminded that, often, heroes die young. In our legends and myths, in our stories of faith, and in our everyday lives. It’s as if the way they live is just too beautiful, resplendent and bright for this fallen realm we live in and so their soul must escape to the place where light originates. Where beauty was born, where it lives and breathes and has a Name.

Today, a giant fell.

Today, we lost a hero.

But today…

A hero found his Home.

“Sometimes it makes me sad, though…I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.” – The Shawshank Redemption

About the Author

Mark Paul


  1. Corinne Ingram

    That is beautiful! Very well said. Can you please speak at his funeral?


    • It would be a great honor.

    • Carla

      Very nice choice Corrine

  2. Kasey

    Thanks Mark! This is how I want everyone to remember Jay and for those who didn’t get to truly know just how awesome he was. I hit the “like” button and it said Kasey likes “Jay”, where’s the “love” butting Facebook??

  3. Beautifully written and allowed me to feel like I knew Jay. I had a friend, Wes Jones that passed away suddenly 3 years ago and know what an impact he had on me. I am sure Jay and Wes are running together now.

  4. Dana

    ABsolutely one of the best pieces written about a truly genuine and great person!! You have done him great justice. I hope you don’t mind I shared on my FB page. I would like others who have heard of Coach to try and understand what a wonderfully unique person we have lost. I know he is with his God but it is such a shame that he was taken away from his family and friends way to soon.

  5. Gretchen Ready

    I didn’t know Jay but some of my FB friends did and I have seen the requests for prayer for him and family since this tragic accident…I prayed for Jay…I even checked my FB for updates before I went to bed last night and prayed again…I have learned through the loss of my son that God’s will and plan is hard to understand and sometimes seems harsh and cruel to us…the pain of losing a loved one is the most horrific pain I have ever felt…but there is joy that cometh in the morning…God is a good and perfect God…his will is perfect and so is his plan…trust in him…I don’t know you Corrine…I have never met nor layed eyes on you….but I have been where you are at this moment…I’m not going to say some of the things people said to me when my son died…Heaven got another angel or God just needed him to come home…what I wished for more than anything at that moment was this…I pray this for you and your beautiful children…to nestle yourselves beneath his huge arms…through every emotion…especially anger because it will come…stay as close to God as you can…he will love you through this…he will carry you…he will never leave you…nestle yourselves beneath his loving arms and he will give you the peace that passeth all understanding…I am so sorry for your loss. I will continue to lift you and your children up in prayer.

  6. Michael Lennen

    I’m not sure anyone could have said it any better! Jay was and honestly still is an inspiration! Just hearing some of the things I’ve heard the past couple of days makes me want to live for God better, coach better, be that fire that inspires young people to be all they can be and then some. Thank you for sharing this and God bless!

  7. Brandon Barron

    So touched by this more than words can express! You’ve written an incredible testament to the life, the force & beautiful spirit of Jay! I know Jay would simply say “Yeah Baby!”!

  8. Linda Davis

    Jay blessed all of us in some way. He was a light in a dark room. Never did I see a sad look on the man only that awesome SMILE. God called home a wonderful man why we will never know while on this Earth,but the legacy he left behind can and will carry on forever. He was loved by many and will never be forgotten. WE LOVE and MISS YOU JAY! GOD bless.

  9. Shanan Malone

    This is one of the most amazing things I have ever read. I am truly touched by what Jay accomplished in his short time here on earth and how the writer made me feel as if I knew Jay myself. We should all be inspired to be remembered in this way and to have touched so may lives. Prayers to all of Jay’s friends and family. Jay has changed my life and I never even new him… and don’t doubt for a minute that this wasn’t part of Gods plan. Jay has left us here on earth and is still changing lives… mine

  10. Wes Lawson

    I remember many of the things in this in this incredible tribute. Great young man and my prayers are with his family.

  11. Jennifer Grimes

    What a beautiful testament to the wonderful life that he lived. Thank you so much for sharing this with others. He will be greatly missed!

  12. Olivia Renegar

    I will truly miss coach! When you saw him you smiled and laughed! He always made you feel special! I would help him coach sometimes and the hole time the kids would laugh!! RIP coach! YEAH BABY!

  13. Veronica Luckow

    I just keep thinking about seeing the way Jay would hold his little girl..put her on his shoulders or just hold her tight and smile at her with such love. To him…she hung the moon. I always thought…wow, what an amazing Dad. What an adorable little girl.

    He loved each child at KCSMA too with the greatest smile and approval. My daughter loved him, my son loved to compete with him. He brought joy and laughter…and God to KCSMA…two things you pray for in a public school.

    I pray for you Corinne, Aiden and KK. I will continue to pray for you!!!

  14. Cris Welsh

    Corrine, I have never formally met you and Jay but have seem you around and know of you both. I was in a nail salon today and noticed two young girls wearing NASA shirts. We were having a conversation about the Beat when the conversation turned to the initials she had painted on her nails… JI.. She went on to tell me about how much Jay meant to her and how every time she steps on the field she will be playing to live up to coach. Thought you should know. Live and light to you.

  15. CiCi

    Coach was a light that shined beyond what the Shes can see. God broke the mold when he made Coach. The halls of KCSMA will never be the same but his smile and laugh lives on. His wife Corrine, Son Aiden and daughter KK were blessed to have him and I know God has your back. Coach gave until his very last breath and after his death by being an organ donor.

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful writing about Coach. It just shows how he touched everyone that came in contact with him.

    My daughter, MicKayla said I feel bad for the people that didn’t get to meet Coach because they really missed out. He was a great man.

  16. Bobbie Jo Ryan

    The loss of people so young and so faithful is such a trial to understand but in the last few years I’ve lost several young friends and each time their faith not only shines through to the end but continues to lead those to Christ because it was who they were and still are.

    I thought I only knew of Jay through my friend Kim who worked with him. She spoke so highly of he and his family and it was refreshing to hear of such an amazing family who impacted so many just by “living” their faith. I say this because as I read the comments and post to Facebook and especially from this beautifully written note about Jay I realized I had met him. . . this past year I was at Living Hope Church, I believe for VBS, and there was a young man rocking a cool mohawk and wearing an infectious smile. He stood out from the crowd and not in a bad way but just in a super friendly, I’ve got something inside me that makes me special and I cannot contain it.

    I will continue to pray for those that feel his loss but I’m certain that those that knew him (and those of us getting to know him through others memories) will come to a point in their lives where they are challenged by Coach to not only share of his story, courage, strength, love, (the list could go on and on) but live by that challenge themselves. …I’m sorry for his loss.

    • Jennifer Huston

      I unfortunately never had the pleasure of knowing Coach Jay. My life was only touched briefly by a short inspiration through his mother, Susie. I can only offer prayers and great condolences to Susie and Corinne and all family and friends whose lives were touched by an apparently awesome young man. God Bless!

  17. Mrs. Kyle Bellinger

    Your words are beautiful. Our 6 yr old Grand Daughter knew “Coach”, and when our Daughter had to explain to Avery what happened to “Coach”, Avery cried her eyes out. I am not sure Avery understood everything her Mommy told her, but she does understand that she won’t see “Coach” at her school anymore. See, Avery lost her Grandma Rylander this year, so it has been a lot for a 6 year old to comprehend. I am praying for the family of “Coach”, and hope they will find peace knowing he is in a better place, and one day they will all be reunited again. May God bless his wife, children, and all the family.

  18. I only knew Jay as an awesome little boy back when we were step-cousins for a season. I remember that “Mama Ingram” always called him “Stump.” That little boy brightened any room he was in. I regret that we lost touch over all these years. Your tribute to him is very heart-warming. I am a Student Pastor too and was touched by your reflections. Praying for his wife, children, Jeff, Susie, Papa Ingram & all the family.

  19. The Morgan Family

    Patrick and Mackenzie were new to Kennesaw Charter this year…and one of the first few people they came home telling me about was Coach and Coach M…how awesome it was that Coach knew their name and they were brand new. šŸ™‚ It meant so much to them as they transitioned into the mix at school. Everyday they had PE they looked forward to it. They immediately prayed in the car Thursday, when I let them know what had happened to Coach. We prayed at dinner, we prayed before bed and we prayed the next morning…for Coach, for Coach’s whole family, for all the teachers and all the students. It broke their hearts Friday afternoon. And they were angry that God hadn’t listened to everyone’s prayers…and started crying and I hugged them both and assured them that God was listening, but that He doesn’t always grant prayers and there is no answer why. I said, “We can be sad, and it’s ok to hurt and cry, but what would Coach say to you if he saw you crying like that? Do you think he would want you to be sad?” …and immediately Mackenzie said, “No, he would say suck it up Mackenzie & go play!” — and they broke into laughter. I didn’t know Coach all that well…but what a legacy he will leave inspiring others to give of themselves to the very end and to smile and all the beautiful things that have been said about him are a testament to that.

  20. Ray Hagan

    Jay sounds like quite a guy. I start my mornings about the same way he did, and it’s good for me to hear a guy like Jay did too.
    I can’t imagine the pain his family is going through, and I pray that the Lord will put His arms around them and love on them. May the God of all comfort, comfort his wife and children, through His people, and in Person.


  1. […] and see photos and a video on Kennesaw Patch. And please read about Jay and the man he was here: Jay, here Party with Coach, and here: The Marietta Daily […]