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Reflections: In Memory of Sam Wyche

Written by Karen Brewer, Publisher

Sunday, January 5, would have been Sam’s birthday, and I want to pay tribute to a great man, Sam Wyche, who deserves all of the accolades that have been bestowed upon him by those who have known him, and I want to share about the Saviour Sam knew and whom he met yesterday, face to face. Many people would be more adept at writing in detail about his accomplishments as a football player and coach than I would be. I want to share about him as a longtime friend and fellow church member and fellow Christian. To me, he was a great man because he was a good man. To me, the best thing that could be said about anyone is that someone is a nice person, and he was one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

It has been difficult to post about his passing, because it still doesn’t seem real, but rather seems as a bad dream from which one wishes to awaken and wishes for it not to be real. However, this is a sad reality. Death is a sad reality that we all face here on earth. It has been fitting that yesterday, the day of his passing, and today have been days of continuous rainfall.

He meant so much to so many people, and he meant the most to his beloved family, his wife, Jane, and their son, Zak, and their daughter, Kerry, and their families. Please join me in continuing to remember them all in prayer. Although Sam has a great legacy in football, and a great legacy in our community, his greatest legacy is his precious family, whom he dearly loved, and I know they love and miss him. 

I’m so glad that the day he passed won’t be the last time we will ever see him. As a Christian, Sam placed his faith in his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and his family and friends have the assurance of a reunion one day in heaven, where there will be no more tears and no more parting, but eternal life.

I was unable to write anything yesterday. I just couldn’t. But, today, I decided to share.

The first time I wrote a story about him was in April of 2001, when I was the Editor of The Pickens Sentinel. Our newspaper’s owner, the late Jerry Alexander, suggested that I do a story on Sam, as Sam had recently spoken at the Pickens Rotary Club (where Jerry was an active member), and Sam and Jane had recently moved back to Jane’s hometown of Pickens. (Jane attended Pickens High School at the same time as my mother.) (Sam and Jane had lived in Pickens after they were married in 1965 until his graduation from Furman University in 1966.) As I was no expert at all on professional football, I wondered if I could do a good enough job conducting an interview with a professional football coach, but Sam made it so easy. He spoke openly about his life, as he sat in my office at the newspaper, and I wrote an in-depth article.

I wrote later stories, also, about him for the newspaper, including when he began volunteering as an assistant football coach at Pickens High School in 2002. He also served as a substitute teacher at Jane’s alma mater. Sam also began writing a column for us at The Pickens Sentinel, and that was a great experience. He was visible in the Pickens community, and I remember taking his photo, as he held his little granddaughter, at the Pickens Azalea Festival in April of 2003, while I was taking photos of the event for the newspaper.

In 2004, I interviewed him again for an article about him for a Christian publication I had created and which I publish. (By that time, Jerry had sold The Sentinel, and our General Manager, the late Don Hunt, was no longer at the newspaper and had passed away, and, after asking advice from my Pastor, I left The Sentinel to begin The Christian View magazine. All of my co-workers at The Sentinel left, as well. After being resold a few times, The Sentinel no longer exists in Pickens. Sadly, those days are gone, but I treasure the fond memories from my time there.) For the article in 2004, I once again wrote about Sam’s background in football and also shared about his Christian faith. While I was at Sam and Jane’s home, they showed me a rescue puppy they had recently adopted, and Sam tried to persuade me to adopt one of the other puppies from the same litter who was awaiting adoption, and he held up their own new pup close to me and said, “Don’t you want one?” I couldn’t, though. My own dog, who was almost 17, had just died, and I didn’t want to get attached to another. I treasure what he wrote on several photographs he signed for me and especially the inscription he wrote in a Bible of mine that day in June of 2004: "Thanks for remaining the special person God made you."

After serving as quarterbacks coach for the Buffalo Bills for two seasons beginning in 2004, Sam returned to again help coach the Pickens High School Blue Flame. Sam and Jane have been a vital part of the Pickens community and Pickens County through the years, and have been involved with charitable organizations, and Sam also was elected and served as a member of the Pickens County Council from 2008 to 2012. He became a beloved member of our community, and his wife’s hometown became his hometown, and he has been a positive Christian influence for everyone and a mentor especially for young people.

Sam and Jane also joined our church and became beloved members of our church family.  I will treasure the times I saw Sam and Jane at church but especially the most recent times. I did not know he would be gone so soon. I just wish I could see them together at church again.

He had been through so much, health wise, in his life, and he endured a heart transplant in 2016 that gave him three more years of life. He made a positive impact throughout his life, including these past three years.

Sam told me years ago that one of his favorite verses of scripture was Philippians 1:21, in which the apostle Paul says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Sam explained that the Christian benefits from either living or dying, because we live in Christ and, when we die, we are with Christ. Sam is now with Jesus Christ. His passing is our loss here on earth but his gain in heaven. Sam had a saying: “Have a great life.” He would later say, "Have a blessed life." I can’t think of a better life than a life in a perfect heaven. But right now, I’m only human, and I just wish that heaven could have waited a little while longer. But thank you, God, for the privilege of having known him. He was a blessing in the lives of his family and friends.

Please keep his precious family in your thoughts and prayers.

January 3, 2020

                                                                                       ~ ~ ~ 

“Live every day to its fullest. Don’t waste a day. And be a part of as many things as you can, because you never know which one is going to touch a life that may make a difference.”    Sam Wyche

Click here to read my 2004 article 'Coach Sam Wyche Shares His Faith', originally printed in The Christian View magazine and also published in The Christian View magazine online.

Click here to read the obituary for Sam Wyche.

Click here to watch videos of Sam.

Click here to read 'A Series of Miracles' from Furman University

Click here to read the article 'The Second Life of Sam Wyche', published in the Kappa Alpha Journal.

Click here to visit 'Make the Winning Call'

From the Publisher: Not all of my memories of Sam include photographs, but below are some photos I've taken through the years that bring back wonderful memories of a good and honorable man.

Following those photos are some photos that Sam signed to me from when he played for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Washington Redskins.

Sam loved all of his grandchildren, whose homes are in North Dakota and Ohio. The following four photos I took of Sam with his then one-year-old granddaughter, Ryan, in April of 2003, at The Pickens Azalea Festival.

A photo I took as Sam spoke at the Pickens County Courthouse at the 2003 Pickens Azalea Festival.

The photo above, and photos below, I took in July of 2002 of Sam with then Pickens High School Blue Flame Head Football Coach Andy Tweito. Sam coached the quarterbacks on the Blue Flame team beginning in 2002 with Coach Tweito.

A photo I took of Sam with Anthony Munoz, whom Sam asked to speak at our church in March of 2012. The Hall of Fame Offensive Lineman played on the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals team that Sam coached in the 1989 Super Bowl.

A photo I took of Sam with Anthony Munoz, whom Sam asked to speak at our church in March of 2012. The Hall of Fame Offensive Lineman played on the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals team that Sam coached in the 1989 Super Bowl.

The above photo and the following photos, which I took at our church in March of 2012, of Sam signing an autograph and speaking with young Gavin Coats, with his grandfather, Jack Gallamore, show his heart for kids.

This photo is one I took of Sam with Jack Gallamore and his oldest grandson, Gavin, at our church. It shows how he loved interacting with children. He got along well with people of all ages.