PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla – It’s undergone a lot of changes of the years, none more than last year, but the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund keeps delivering on its mission to help families of children undergoing cancer treatment.
Sunday’s night’s gala dinner, followed by a golf tournament Monday at TPC Sawgrass featured celebrities like Jaguars’ head coach Urban Meyer, ESPN personalities Chris Berman, Tom Jackson and Chris Mortenson, and former Jaguars like Kyle Brady, Fred Taylor, Pete Mitchell, Tom McManus, Josh Scobee and Marcus Stroud. One-time Jaguars’ head coach Mike Mularkey was on hand, too. Pro Football Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian was there, as were former NFL coaches Dick Vermeil and Dave Campo. Former Major League all-star Daniel Murphy made an appearance. So did 2-time World Cup-winning coach Jill Ellis and former Florida Gators and Providence High School basketball star Patric Young.
And of course, Coughlin was there. Three years removed from his last season with the Jaguars as executive vice president of football operations, a tenure that included a run to the AFC championship game and an unceremonious firing by owner Shad Khan after violations of the collective bargaining agreement came to light.
While his football legacy is now written in ink in the history books, his legacy and the legacy of the Jay Fund, now in its 26th year, continues to be written. The foundation has given away over $13 million in the 26 years it has been in operation.
“The biggest thing for me was the idea that we really are helping, and we were needed,” Coughlin said. “When I left and went to New York, we had a board meeting discuss these things. And Mike Joyce said, ‘I don’t believe we can provide the quality of care that we that we’ve been providing if the Jay Fund is not here.’ So those things all meant a great deal to me.”
Last year, the Jay Fund held virtual fundraisers during the pandemic. While the financial contributions were still very strong, Coughlin was pleased to be back surrounded by people who support the work of the Jay Fund.
“We need to be able to make contact and build relationships, and talk to people about our great cause,” Coughlin said. “Last year, I was so proud of our Jay Fund people. My daughter, Keli, the CEO of the Jay Fund refused to put our head in the sand, things were tough. It looked like many, many people were starting to wonder if the charities would survive and what we could do. But we kept going and we had a virtual program with our golf tournament. Now, we went to New York and had a virtual champions. And although we didn’t raise as much money as we normally would, we did pretty darn well and it gave us an opportunity with some reserves to go ahead and meet our needs. We’ve never turned a family down.”
If Coughlin had won a Super Bowl in Jacksonville, he may be only remembered for his exploits on the sidelines in Jacksonville. Having won a pair of Super Bowls with the New York Giants gave Coughlin a national reputation beyond just the hardcore football fan.
Ask anyone in Jacksonville about Coughlin, they may say something about football, but they are nearly as likely to talk about the impact of the Jay Fund. A fact not lost on some of the other notable names at the event.
“It speaks to the Coughlin family and what they mean to this city, and their sacrifices for families of kids dealing with cancer,” said former Englewood and Jacksonville University star Daniel Murphy, who is enjoying his first year of retirement from the big leagues.
Taylor who was drafted by Coughlin out of Florida in 1998
“It always goes back to the cause,” Taylor said. “The person who took it upon himself to get this thing going. Coach Coughlin, everybody knows what he stands for. Anybody can run a foundation, but the support that pours in for Coach Coughlin and the foundation, it’s huge.”
Some of the other former players who attended admitted that Coughlin was, at times, tough to play for, but what the Jay Fund has continued to do makes it easy to support.
“Even though he was hard on us sometimes, he’s a good guy,” Stroud said. “It’s a great foundation he has, so anything we can do to support it we do.”
Tim Tebow was scheduled to attend but was not at the Sunday night dinner.