JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Willie Green, a well-known assistant coach for the Trinity Christian football team and a positive presence in the community for years, died unexpectedly on Sunday. Green was 56 years old.
Green had a massive reach across Jacksonville and the social media tributes mourning his death scratch the surface of that impact in the area. A military man and an advocate in the lives of youth, Green was a familiar face in the coaching box and on the sidelines of Trinity for nearly two decades. He loved football and had a passion for helping troubled youth. And Green was never shy about expressing his faith. His final social media post just hours before his death was about patience and trusting in God.
Green graduated from Ribault and had spent the last 18 years as an assistant, currently as the linebackers coach, with the Conquerors. He was on staff for seven of Trinity’s nine state championships. His passion for the Trojans was unquestioned, except when Trinity and Ribault faced off. Green had to put his allegiance aside for the night and focus on coaching his best for Trinity. But when the game was over, Green was all about the powder blue of the Trojans.
“I’ve never seen him have a bad day. And he was just full of joy,” said longtime Trinity assistant Dave Burdetsky. “Always positive. He never thought we were going to lose on Friday night. And just how he lived his life as an example.”
Outside of longtime coach Verlon Dorminey, Green was the next longest-tenured coach on the Conquerors staff. In a Facebook post, Dorminey was heartbroken on the sudden loss of Green.
“If your son was coached by him you need to count your blessings. If you were coached by him you were truly blessed,” he said. “There will be a deep void in our football program. Willie will be greatly missed. He was a godly man and pretty much kept us all in line.”
The posts on social media have remembered Green as a genuine, encouraging, energetic and positive man. A former Marine, Green was not a shy about his faith and had a heart for trying to help young people. Green founded a group home that attempted to help at-risk, violent or troubled youth. Trinity assistant coach Dave Burdetsky, who has been with the Trinity Christian program for 17 years, met Green while helping out with the Tiger Serious Habitual Offender Program (Tiger SHOP). They became friends before they became coaching colleagues.
“Coach Green was passionate about football and passionate about his faith. There was no doubt where he stood. We’d go to the races, he had his John 3:16 shirt on and I love Jesus — had on everywhere he went,” Burdetsky said. “... He lived what he taught, he taught it and he lived it, which is rare in today’s world. Very looked up to. The kids revered him. He’s going to be missed.”
Trinity quarterback Colin Hurley said that Green was engaging and genuine, both to current players and ones who’d gone on. Hurley said that Green would send him a text message out of the blue just to check in and encourage him.
“Coach Green inspired us. He motivated us. He supported us. He cared about us. He pushed us. He believed in us. He brought so much energy, positivity and passion to our team,” Hurley said in a text message.
“I am heartbroken. I was very close to Coach Green — very close. I don’t know what practice will look like without him. I don’t know what game day will feel like without him. I can hear his voice now. I can see his smile. He was so special to me.”
Green, who played linebacker at Ribault during his time there in the 1980s, was a bit undersized for the position. But Burdetsky said that’s what made his eye for talent in the current era of football that much more important. The Conquerors have had their share of excellent high school players who didn’t fit the prototypical size and blueprint of the position.
“He always loved the undersized, overlooked athlete,” Burdetsky said. “Coach Green could identify with him. He would encourage that young player to reach his full potential and not look at his size. When other people saw them [that undersized player], Coach Green would bring out the best inside of that person, that player.”