By Stetson Marlin
Faith. Family. Football.
Three perfect words to describe the life of Coach Donnie Keeton. Coach Keeton, or Poppy, was always around sports. Whether he was coaching or watching his grandkids play, he was always there.
Coach Keeton tragically passed away on Saturday, August 11th at the age of 87. Coach Keeton was a dedicated person both on and off the field, as he was married to his wife, Evelyn C. Keeton for 67 years.
After serving in the military for a few years, Coach Keeton decided to coach. He coached at many schools over the course of 45 years, including Hillsboro, Ezell Harding, and Nashville Christian. Coach Keeton made such an impact on the people at Nashville Christian that the football field, Keeton Field, is named after him and the legacy he left behind at Nashville Christian.
The funeral for Coach Keeton was this past Saturday. Many former players were there to celebrate the life of a great coach and mentor. Alan Thompson, who played for Coach Keeton during the 80s, said,”Coach served as a teacher, mentor, second father, spiritual leader, and football coach to so many of us during an influential time in our life. Though I only played for him for two years of football, he was such an inspiration in my life second only to my father. Coach was a great man that had such an impact on so many people throughout his life. I will miss him deeply.”
Coach Keeton always knew when to be hard or soft... He truly loved molding young people, and was one of the greatest!” said Byron Page.
“I can remember the first time I met Coach Keeton. It was the first week of school, around 1982. I think I was in the second grade, and we had just come inside after recess. I was in line at the water fountain, and Coach was in the hallway taking time to greet the youngsters with a smile. (As most kids my age, I was missing my two front teeth at the time.) I smiled back at Coach & he stopped me and said with a serious look “Son you know what causes your teeth to fall out like that?” I said, “No Sir?” Coach says “You’ve been kissing little girls haven’t you?”
Of course I was embarrassed, and replied “No Sir! No Sir!”
Brian Marlin, who graduated from Nashville Christian in 1985 and played for Coach Keeton for three years, said,”Not only was Coach Keeton my coach, he was a mentor, a spiritual leader and one of the reasons I became a Christian. My family was lucky to be coached by someone who will leave an impact on countless people,” he said. “Like ours, I’m sure Coach Keeton had an impact on many former players and friends’ lives. It’s sad to see another great person go, but in times like this, it’s good to remember all the great memories we had while he was here.,” he added.