RICHMOND, Va. - For the second time already this year, the Central Virginia football community has lost one of its most popular figures.
Longtime Varina head coach Gary Chilcoat passed away after battling brain cancer. He was 70.
Chilcoat began his Central Virginia coaching career at Varina High School back in 1991 under then head coach Ed Bullheller. He took over as head coach in 2000 and stayed in that position through the 2008 season. After that came stops as a defensive coordinator at Deep Run (2009-10), Highland Springs (2011-12), Henrico (2013-16) and Mills Godwin (2017-18).
Last year, CBS 6 spoke with peers and coaches from the five Henrico County programs with which Chilcoat worked throughout his career.
We look back at some of their thoughts when Chilcoat was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer:
Michael Robinson, perhaps the greatest player to ever come from Varina HS, played four years under Chilcoat. He went on to have a stellar career at Penn State before spending 8 years in the NFL, winning one Super Bowl title with Seattle.
"His passion is what made me follow him" Robinson says. "When he speaks, I don't care if he's just saying 'hi'. He has a voice where you can hear the strength , you can hear the passion, you can hear his love for you and the game of football."
Stu Brown spent 8 years as an assistant on the Varina staff, ending in 2002. He returned to replace Chilcoat as head coach at Varina in 2009, a position he still holds today.
"I think he changed the game" Brown said. "I think people realized that in order to beat Varina, we have to get out kids bigger, faster, stronger . At that time, nobody could compete with us. It was because of Gary Chilcoat. He made kids physically and mentally tougher than they ever imagined they could be."
Lenny Pritchard was an assistant at Atlee HS where he coached against Chilcoat, and then became an assistant under Chilcoat at Varina. He left to become the head coach at Deep Run where he would eventually bring Chilcoat aboard to work with the Wildcat defense
"The one thing that you can't deny about football and having a successful program, it requires hard work" Pritchard said. "He is a hard working man, he expects his players to be hard working players."
"While he was here [Deep Run] the kids loved him. The kids loved him when we were at Varina. I got to witness that for 2 years. You're talking about two different high schools on opposite ends of the county and the kids loved him."
Gary Hess has been the voice of high school football at Fox Sports 910 since 1993.
"Coach Chilcoat is a defensive guru" Hess said. "You want someone to fix your defense, you bring in Coach Chilcoat. He can get the most out of it."
"Watching him coach is an amzaing thing. He maximizes what you get out of what you have. I think this past year at Godwin is a great example of that."
Blanda Wolfe was also a Varina assistant under Chilcoat. He is now the Assistant Recruiting Coordinator at UVA
"We've got guys coaching all over the state of Virginia, a lot of guys coaching in the Central Region back in Richmond as well, a couple of guys coaching in college in different places. It's the hard work he taught us how to do" Wolfe said.
Loren Johnson is the head coach at Highland Springs. He brought Chilcoat in to work with his defense back in 2011.
"His work ethic, his dedication to details, how he carried himself off the field, understanding different relationships and how to carry those relationships" Johnson said. "He had a major impact on our program, how we function, how we flow and how we get things done."
Gerald Glasco is the head coach at Henrico High School. He took over in 2013 and one of his first moves was to hire Chilcoat as his defensive coordinator after coaching against him and eventually with him as an assistant at Highland Springs
"He's the guy everybody needs on their staff" Glasco said. "He's a legend. He's Gary Chilcoat. He understand Central Virginia Football."
"A lot of people know football. A lot of people can coach football. Very few are as high character as he is."
Ron Strine was a longtime assistant coach who took over the program at Mills Godwin in 2017. Chilcoat is currently on leave from his position as defensive coordinator of the Eagles.
"I really enjoyed the way he coached. It was the way I was coached in high school. He was very demanding yet supportive of the kids" Strine said. "I told my wife, if I ever get the chance to work with him one more time, I'm going to do everything I can."
Per Chilcoat's wishes, his family did not have a funeral or formal memorial service. He recently celebrated his 70th birthday with dozens of friends and family members. His wife Janice wants everyone to remember him that way, and in his honor, to live life as Chilcoat would have wanted: with love, compassion, and honor.
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