‘We grew up to be good people’: Hilliard football coach remembered as father figure to many

Paul Whittenburg died Thursday after battling health issues

HILLIARD, Fla. – A Hilliard coach who brought 200 victories to a Red Flashes football team is being remembered for his caring spirit on and off the field.

Loved ones and friends remembered Paul Whittenburg Saturday after he died Thursday from health-related issues. Whittenburg’s career at Hilliard Middle-Senior High School spanned over five decades.

The last time he coached a game for the Red Flashes was November 2012.

Many said there will never be another Coach Whittenburg. He cared for everyone and loved his students — on and off the field.

Former Hilliard football player Hal Keene said it was shocking to know that a person who was like a father figure to so many was no longer here.

“It’s like losing a dad. He meant a lot to our community,” Keene said. “His goal was to make all of us better people. Not everybody was getting to the next level in football, and he knew that but his biggest concern with us was that we grew up to be good men and good people.”

Whittenburg leaves behind two sons, a daughter and nine grandchildren.

Whittenburg’s children sent News4JAX the following statement in response to his death:

Our daddy poured his life into the young people of our community in the only way he knew how. His mantra of toughness and hard work left a lasting impact on the Hilliard and Charlton Co communities. We have been touched by the outpouring of support during this time of grieving and are thankful we’ve been able to share him with so many over five decades. While we are saddened, we have peace knowing his eternity has been secured through his personal relationship with Jesus.

John Crawford, principal of Hilliard Middle-Senior High School, who met Whittenburg in the 90s said the coach was a man who loved his faith and family. Crawford said what he will miss the most is Whittenburg’s ability to make the most out of any situation.

“He could inject humor in the most intense situations and the most important games out on the field. I think that was his way of being a leader,” Crawford said.

Paul Whittenburg (Courtesy of family)

Crawford also remembered Whittenburg’s best quality as not only caring for his students but also caring for every student he came in contact with.

One of the students whose lives he touched was Kelvin Henderson. Henderson met the coach during his time of helping out at Charlton High School. He said Whittenburg heled him improve his grades.

“I kind of struggled with math in high school, and I would go to him and ask to help me with my homework and stuff,” Henderson said.

Whittenburg’s made lasting impressions on all of the lives he touched, and his legacy will forever live through them.

About the Author:

Khalil Maycock joined the News4JAX team in November 2022 after reporting in Des Moines, IA.