The football community filled the gym at the Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch on Friday, Nov. 18 for a retirement celebration held in honor of long time coach Wayne Riner. Riner began his coaching career in the mid 90's at Connell High School and as seen throughout the room, has impacted the lives of many of his players. The gym was aptly decorated with jerseys representing his teams placed on chairs, helmets on tables and the table spread with all the great football finger foods.
Current high school players joined with past players, parents, friends, family, and the community as a whole to recognize, honor, and pay tribute to Riner's coaching legacy.
Jeff Hawkins stated, "Coach Riner has quite the legacy." With three state championships and seven state championship runs, he has a lot to be proud of. As a defensive coach he kept the team on the board by teaching them how to hold back the competition.
"I'm glad that I had a coach with as much experience as he did. When I played, we were the 2002 team that took state. It drove a lot of kids to be at their top potential," Wes Wieseler.
Brian Hawkins shared more of Coach Riner’s legacy, "He coached all six of my brothers, including myself. Sixteen years with coach Riner for the Hawkins."
Jax Whitby added to that expressing, "He coached all the boys in my family. He's coached multiple families. It's been good. He's a good guy."
Riner shared with those gathered that when he first came through Connell, he stated it was "the ugliest place I've ever seen." Like so many others in our community, he wasn't planning to stay very long but thirty years later, he's still in Connell. "The greatest kids in America live right here in this community," coach Riner said, "When I came here and got to coach the kids of this community, I didn't want to raise my kids anywhere else."
Of his decision to retire he added, "The last few weeks have been pretty emotional. We've got some great memories we'll share forever. It's just been a great ride. What a great profession."
He continued, "I never thought about going to seven state tournaments and winning three. I love this community and loved raising my kids here."
Chris Lee stated, "I've been able to experience Wayne on every level. I began as a ball boy in sixth grade, played with him - winning the championship in 2002, and coached with him for 16 years (state champions of 2011). What I love about Wayne is his passion and love of the game."
"Whether he's coaching or watching the Georgia Bulldogs, his excitement is evident, he gets riled up," Rylie Selander shared.
Dave Rowley, who also played and coached with Riner said, "We will miss him. He's a great coach and great friend."
Wayne and his wife Janae expressed,"We are filled with gratitude for the outpouring of love and support our family has experienced from the community throughout the years I have coached football at Connell High School. Not many people have the opportunity to rub shoulders with so many fine young men as I have had the honor of coaching. The growth of my players from one season to the next always amazed me. My motto has always been “Hard Work Pays Off”, and the families in this community exemplify that statement. As members of my coaching staff over the years have come and gone, there has always been one constant; we strive to mentor boys to become young men with tenacity, honor, and a strong work ethic. In doing so, I have been paid back 100 fold with memories and life long friendships. As I mentioned at the retirement party, which was so graciously put together by so many thoughtful team mothers, I could never ask for a better place to raise our family. We are surrounded by the best families one could ask for who also teach their children to achieve goals through hard work. Thank you to all that attended! God has been very good to us."