Usually, late week posts are reserved for previews of the weekend’s biggest battles. This week’s preview features the biggest battle of them all for Irwin County head coach Buddy Nobles. He is fighting stage-4, inoperable cancer.
But Nobles doing what he has always done when preparing for an opponent as coach. He is going to fight.
“That’s how I was raised,” said Nobles, who has led Irwin to the region championships in four of the five seasons he has been in charge, as well as four trips to the public school state finals. “That’s the only way I know how to get this done, is to fight.”
Nobles was in Atlanta at the end of the week to undergo a surgical procedure that is part of his game plan for defeating cancer. A tube is being inserted in his chest, so that he can soon begin going through chemotherapy, which will take place in Tifton.
After a little recovery time next week, Nobles believes he will feel well enough to make another trip to metro Atlanta, this time to coach his team, No. 2 in Class A public, against Mount Paran Christian on September 13. Nobles took a long enough time out to talk about the toughest battle of his life:
Class A Blog: When did you know there was something wrong?
Nobles: “I hadn’t been feeling well all summer. Then we took our daughter [Kenley] on a cruise for graduation, and when we came back I felt really weak. When we started summer workouts again after the Fourth of July, I felt really bad. I even passed out a couple of times. I thought I was just getting old, but the doctor ran some tests and as it turned out, I has been losing a lot of blood. I had a tumor. I was trying to be that typical football coach, being tough and hardnosed. But I’ll tell any coach, if you’re not feeling well, you need to go get checked out.”
Class A Blog: You said the original prognosis you received in Tifton was not good. What have the doctors at Emory in Atlanta told you?
Nobles: “We got a better prognosis at Emory. They are going to check out my liver and stomach and get me ready for chemo. That will take place in Tifton. My doctors there will get with the doctors [in Atlanta] and come up with the plan for how many rounds of chemo I get and when the process starts.”
Class A Blog: How is your family handling things?
Nobles: “It was upsetting to all of us at first. But I just said, look, we’re just a regular family, but now we have that big red “C” on our chests. I’ll tell you, I’m just blessed to have a wife like Tammy, who teaches ninth grade algebra [at Irwin]. She’s the best teacher in our house. She’s just a phenomenal wife and mother. Our son Kaleb is quarterbacks coach at the University of West Florida. I appreciate them letting him come home for a little while. Our son Kasey is an assistant coach on my staff. And Kenley is a freshman at Georgia Southern, where she’s a sports management major. She’s working with the football program there, helping with all their recruiting efforts. The coaches down there have been great to her.
“And my superintendent, Dr. Thad Clayton, and our principal, Scott Haskins have been great to us. And the community has really just been tremendous. I get cards and letters, so many people telling me they are pulling for me. Our booster club even bought me a golf cart so I can ride around practice in it.”
Class A Blog: How has your team been handling the news?
Nobles: “They’re handling it well. I think they knew there was something not right with me. I almost passed out a couple of times at practice. I told them before our last scrimmage that I had cancer. A lot of heads dropped. But I told them what they were NOT going to do was dedicate this season to me. I told them, I plan to be around for a lot more seasons, so they should save that. A lot of them came up to me to hug me and tell me they love me. I told them you play for your town, your seniors and each other. Our junior and senior classes have really stepped up and taken responsibility for their level of leadership.”
Class A Blog: Who are the key players who are providing that leadership, especially with one of the state’s top players, DJ Lundy, out for a few weeks?
Nobles: “You can never replace a DJ Lundy. But I’ll tell you that Cam Ward is as close as they come. Jalen Billingsley is a junior and a three-year starter for us on the offensive line. He’s 5-11, 215, but he plays with a fire and a passion. Ramont Edge is a three-year starter for us on the defensive line. He goes from zero to 90 in a flash. And Nathan Roberts is a senior tight end for us who’s gotten into the weight room and really worked hard on the little things to be successful. He’s been great.”
Class A Blog: It’s hard to believe that you still plan on coaching while battling cancer.
Nobles: “I’ve received so many cards and letters, encouraging me and wishing me luck. People coming up to me, telling me they’re praying for me. I really appreciate it. At the end of the day, Buddy Nobles is a winner and I’m going to get after this the only way I know how. And that is to fight it with everything I have.”