Coach remembered fondly by family, friends

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 23, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Joseph Kramer Fife, 22, an assistant football, baseball and track coach at Adams County Christian School, was killed early Sunday morning in a single vehicular crash, according to Warren Strain, public affairs director for the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

Fife, a 1999 graduate of ACCS, was mere months away from completing his bachelor’s of science degree from Alcorn State and planned to fulfill a lifelong dream to become a high school coach.

&uot;Coaches put an impression on his life early on, and that’s why he wanted to go into the coaching field,&uot; said ACCS softball coach Rick Fife, 28, Kramer’s brother. &uot;He loved watching films. It was his hobby.&uot;

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Whether it was driving the bus for the Rebels’ baseball team on away games or relaying sets ACCS opponents where in during football season, Kramer Fife was so seemed as though he had been a regular on the sidelines for eons.

For football, if you sat Kramer Fife in front of a VCR to dissect an opponent’s dime package or recognize where the holes were in its defense he would find them for you before any other, Rick Fife said.

&uot;I’ve been coaching longer than Kramer was on this earth and he was the best I’ve seen at watching film, myself included,&uot; ACCS head football coach Keith Walters said. &uot;Our kids loved him so much. We will all battle through this, but it’s a tough thing.&uot;

Fife was a three-year letterman in football at AC from 1996-98, while also running track for six years.

His junior and senior years Fife was selected to all-district teams in football and was an all-conference member his final year, as well under then-head coach Bo Swilley.

&uot;When (Kramer Fife) played for us he wore the No. 51 and we all called him Butkus,&uot; Swilley said in reference to Hall of Fame NFL linebacker Dick Butkus. &uot;He wasn’t the greatest athlete, but he played with so much heart. He was a great leader.

&uot;When I heard the news (Sunday) morning I was so sick.&uot;

Rick Fife said he believes it was because of great ACCS coaches like Swilley, football assistants Bob Garrett and Charles Kennedy and Rebel track coach Bill Richardson that Kramer Fife pursued a career as a coach.

Rick Fife knew so well what everyone else, including Swilley and Walters, who came in contact with his brother experienced firsthand.

Kramer Fife was one of those magnetic personalities that infect you in a great way.

&uot;I told him he was the hardest underpaid coach I had ever seen,&uot; Walters said. &uot;He would answer you with yes sirs and no sirs and I’d tell him he didn’t have to do that.

&uot;But he’d always say to me that he had to because that was the way he was raised.&uot;

&uot;Everybody knew Kramer. He was one of the most positive human beings around,&uot; ACCS head baseball coach Gill Morris said. &uot;This is absolutely tragic.&uot;

Walters called Kramer Fife a &uot;sponge,&uot; who was going to be a great coach because of a work ethic unlike any other he had seen out of a young coach.

&uot;Coach Walters had a major effect on helping him to get through school by allowing him to student coach,&uot; Rick Fife said. &uot;So many great people had an effect on him. We wanted to coach side-by-side.&uot;

Any coach will tell you that their job is not only to teach young men and women lessons on the courts and field, but to mold them into disciplined individuals prepared for whatever life throws at them.

Coaches also serve as mentors and some even go so far as to act as a surrogate parent, looking out for each player as one of their own children.

At just 22 years of age Kramer Fife was already instilling those qualities in today’s youth, according to those who knew him.

&uot;You don’t make a lot of money coaching so you’re always dedicated to the kids and Kramer was,&uot; Swilley said. &uot;Even when he was in high school younger kids would call his name in the halls because they looked up to him.&uot;

&uot;He was ready to give back,&uot; Walters said. &uot;Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we’ve got until it’s gone.&uot;