After losing dad, coach to cancer, Tech football player plans to honor his legacy

Since he picked up a football, Tyler Teknipp didn’t have to look far off the field to see his dad. Joe Teknipp taught his son Tyler the game, was his head coach at Eagles Landing High School and then was a fixture in the stands as Tyler continued his career playing at Georgia Tech. The two would talk most days – if not every day – after practice and unwind after Yellow Jackets home games over pizza.

"Yeah, he was definitely my best friend,” said Teknipp. “Definitely."

Teknipp’s world was shaken, though, in July. His father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He went through treatment, seemed to be doing well; he was in the hospital when word spread he was getting close to coming home. Then after fighting through traffic to visit his dad at the hospital, he saw commotion in the hallway. He and his mother were ushered into the family room.

"A nurse came back in kind of crying, shaking her head and said she was so sorry,” said Teknipp.

Joe Teknipp passed away at 47 years old. The very popular coach and teacher at Eagles Landing was missed by many.

"Joe was really more than a football coach,” said Eagles Landing principal Gabe Crerie. “He really was a connector in the community."

There was a candlelight vigil in the football stadium. Joe Teknipp’s nickname “Tek” was painted on the 50-yard line at Eagles Landing’s stadium and emblazoned on team t-shirts. Tyler, meanwhile, had to “put on a good front,” but admits it was tough.

"You're not used to seeing such a big strong guy like that,” Teknipp said of his dad, trailing off. “Basically Superman not having any of his powers is what it was like for me."

Teknipp returned to football where he is a redshirt junior defensive back for the Yellow Jackets. Head coach Paul Johnson sent his condolences out publicly through Twitter. Tyler said he had trouble focusing on anything, including football, but ultimately it was his father, as always, coaching him through it.

"He's still here with me,” said Teknipp. “He's not physically here. I can feel that he's still there."

The tragedy made Tyler consider his life, and consider his future. His dad’s influence made it crystal clear: he wants to carry on his father’s legacy.

"That's the only thing I've ever seen myself doing is coaching,” said Teknipp. “[My father passing away] kind of pushed me over the edge, made the decision a little bit easier. I was like, 'you know what, I've seen the impact he's had on all these lives, I just feel like that's my calling, to help as many people as I can in my life.' There's no better way than through the sport I love and football."

Phil Teknipp, Coach Joe’s brother who is an assistant coach and teacher at Eagles Landing, says Joe would be thrilled to hear his son wants to follow in his coaching footsteps.

"I think he'd be proud of that,” said Phil Teknipp. “There's such a way to influence young people's lives by being a coach. I think he'd be great at that."

Tyler has been back at Eagles Landing most Friday nights this fall helping out on the sidelines – whether that’s giving tips (Tyler was a standout quarterback during his high school days and knows defense from his time at Georgia Tech), getting players water or just being a positive influence on the team.

Coach Joe Teknipp’s loss won’t soon be forgotten by the Eagles Landing High School community. They may remember him even more strongly as they see his son coaching on the sidelines one day soon.