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Sammie Coates: A Champion of Character

Sammie Coates and McKenzie Ray
Sammie Coates and McKenzie Ray

In sports and in life, the weight of a loss can do two things: drag down or strengthen.

When Sammie Coates was a child, his father passed away from an industrial accident—a sudden, jolting loss that would leave anyone shaken, let alone a ten-year-old boy.

Sammie was tempted to leave sports altogether, feeling that the absence of his athletic inspiration gave him little reason to continue playing. It would have been a justifiable decision. However, he chose to do what every son strives to do: make his father proud. So, he kept playing.

“I knew he was still watching me, I knew I still had to make him proud even though he’s not here on earth with me. I know he’s in Heaven smiling down on me seeing me doing great things,” Coates said in a November 2013 interview with OAnow.com.

At just ten years old, Sammie Coates exhibited wisdom that most grown athletes tragically lack in the modern sports world.

Even a cursory glance at Coates’ Twitter feed shows that his faith is just as unwavering now as it was then, as he frequently tweets encouraging and powerful verses to his 28,000 followers.

It’s undeniable that Sammie Coates is onto something here. Something good.

He used the loss of his father to strengthen himself, and now he’s using it to help others who are battling their own heavyweights, like McKenzie Ray is. On September 22, Sammie posted this celebratory Instagram video of the young cancer patient’s departure from the hospital:

Kenzie has undergone her chemotherapy treatments like a champion, thanks to her faith and a “big brother” who well-illustrates what a champion looks like. It’s is a welcome sight in an era when “athletes” and “bad boys” are often interchangeable terms thanks to a culture that rewards talent regardless of character.

Sammie and Kenzie became friends upon meeting after the Mississippi State game last season, as the wide receiver noticed her out of a crowd waiting to meet players. The friendship blossomed on Twitter, and now, they are so close that his name is included on the list along with her family members during hospital stays.

“That little girl, she touches me every time I see her or get a tweet from her because her strong focus and she believes she’s going to be OK. She always knows she’s going to be fine. She knows God is going to take care of her. She has so much faith, and that’s what I love about her,” Sammie says.

While so much of the sports news coming out these days seems to focus on on-the-field successes and off-the-field failures, Auburn’s Sammie Coates has proven himself to be a champion in both arenas.

Follow Shanna on Twitter @shannalo