- Monday, 14 October 2019
- Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
It took a few years, but family and friends of former Reid Ross High School football coach John Daskal were finally able to celebrate the installation of a permanent sign in his honor outside the football stadium bearing his name.
It was around 2002 that the stadium, at what is now Reid Ross Classical High School, was named in honor of Daskal, the only coach the school ever knew before it closed as a traditional high school in 1984.
When Daskal finally retired in 1991, he had 211 wins, at the time the most of any high school football coach in Cumberland County history.
He was inducted into the Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame in 2006.
High school football has returned to John Daskal Stadium this season as it has become the temporary home of Terry Sanford High School, which ironically was the last school where Daskal was a head coach before he retired from the profession.
Daskal’s daughters, Kim Daskal Lee and Kristina Daskal Magyar, led the push to raise money to get a permanent sign installed.
They held a golf tournament at Gates Four Golf and Country Club in April and had numerous people reach out to make donations toward the project.
A family friend, Dr. Wally Mohammed, took the lead in the construction of the sign.
Mohammed operates a restaurant in Lillington, and he and Daskal became friends when Daskal and his wife Carol first visited the restaurant years ago.
Lee praised the efforts of men who coached and/or played for her father. Among them were Fred McDaniel, Bill Yeager, Billy Starks and Reggie Pinkney.
“Every planning meeting, they were there,’’ she said. “We made so many contacts with people we would not have been able to reach out to. They have gone above and beyond.’’
The ceremony for the sign was held at halftime of a recent Terry Sanford junior varsity football game at Reid Ross.
Lee estimated about 50 alumni of Reid Ross, including some former football players of Daskal, came out for the ceremony. Pinkney, Yeager and Starks were among those attending.
“He treated all the players like sons,’’ said Pinkney, principal at Ramsey Street High School in Fayetteville. “We played so much harder for him, and that was why we were
Yeager, former head coach at Terry Sanford and Gray’s Creek High Schools, works as an assistant coach at Terry Sanford.
“He was just a fine man,’’ Yeager said of Daskal. “He cared about his players while he coached them and after they got through and went on doing what they do in their lives.
“He was the real deal, the whole package.’’
Starks, principal at Pine Forest Middle School, said Daskal was bigger than life and the kind of coach you would run through a brick wall for.
“He was just a good person,’’ Starks said. “He loved us, cared about us and we would do anything for him. He was just a special human being.’’
Pictured: Retired Reid Ross High school football coach John Daskal is joined by men who played and/or coached with him during his career at the ceremony. Pictured from left to right: Current Terry Sanford coach Fred McDaniel, retired Cumberland County Schools student activities director Fred McDaniel, Daskal, current Ramsey Street High School principal Reggie Pinkney, current Terry Sanford assistant coach Bill Yeager and current Pine Forest Middle School principal Billy Starks.
When high school football officials prepare to call a game, traditionally the whole crew holds a pre-game meeting to go over any important details before the contest begins.
Sgt. 1st. Class Ryan Reis had to miss the meeting held with the rest of his crew prior to the recent Pine Forest at Westover contest, but he had a good excuse.
He arrived at the field via parachute, jumping in during a pregame exhibition by the famed United States Army’s Golden Knights parachute team.
Reis, who is a native of Tacoma, Washington, is in his third year with the Golden Knights and his second as a football official with the Southeastern Athletic Officials Association.
He got the idea to arrive at the Westover game via parachute when he first learned the Golden Knights were scheduled to jump at Westover’s homecoming game.
He was not originally assigned to the Westover game as an official, so he called Neil Buie, regional supervisor of football officials for the SAOA.
“I had refereed one of the Westover games earlier this year and knew they were in our scheduling district,’’ Reis said. He said he always thought if he ever had the opportunity, arriving via parachute at a game he was going to be officiating would be something special.
Aware that Buie sometimes has challenges scheduling officials to call games because of a current shortage in available crews, he called to see if there was any way it could be done.
“Obviously, my Army job comes first,’’ Reis said. “There’s no way around that.’’
Reis had cleared the idea with his Army superiors and Buie supported the suggestion 100%, so Reis was added to the officiating crew for the game.
Reis works any of three positions when he’s a football official, either the line judge, head linesman or back judge. For the Westover game, he was the head linesman.
The original plan for the Westover jump was for Westover principal Dr. Vernon Lowery to accompany the Golden Knights in a tandem jump.
They had done the same thing last season when Terry Sanford principal Tom Hatch jumped in to a Bulldog home game.
Unfortunately, the Golden Knights have specific criteria that must be met during a tandem jump, and conditions for Friday night prevented them from allowing Dr. Lowery to jump with the team.
But the Golden Knights themselves jumped with no problem Reis said.
Reis hoped the jump sent a message about both high school football officials and soldiers. “I understand it’s not for everybody,’’ he said. “Officiating football isn’t for everybody, and being in the Army isn’t for everybody.
“We do the things we do because we like them. Also it’s a great opportunity to show it’s an avenue of something that you can do.’’
Reis said people don’t have to be pigeonholed into doing things a certain way because of their background or certain pressures they are dealing with in life.
“There are multiple things you can do in your life that don’t necessarily have to be the standard operating way for everybody else,’’ he said.
Back row pictured from left to right: Football officials Jeremy Hall, Charles Davenport, Todd Hewlett, Greg Rooks.
Front row pictured from left to right: Golden Knights, SFC Mike Koch, SFC Ryan Reis, SSG Blake Gaynor, SGT Jason Bauder, SPC Skyler Romberg, SGT Adam Munoz.
Brian Edkins was principal at South View High School when he first got to know Davin Schmidt. Although initially he saw him from afar, he was quickly impressed.
“I’ve never seen a coach as positive and optimistic as he was with kids,’’ Edkins said. “He’s the one you would want to coach your kid. You would hope he would pick your kid because you knew they were going to have a great experience.
“He was going to treat all the kids well.’’
Schmidt, who was an assistant soccer coach at South View and Hope Mills Middle Schools and coached many years in the Hope Mills recreation program, died earlier this month after lengthy battles with an assortment of ailments. He was 47.
“He could get the worst news in the world and somehow find a silver lining,’’ Edkins said. “It was just amazing. He would try to lead as normal a life as he could during this fight.’’
In his final year at South View, Edkins recalled a time when Schmidt’s oldest son, Davin II, was being recognized for making the A-B honor roll.
Schmidt was in the hospital at Duke at the time, but got permission from his doctors to come to South View to see his child recognized. “Throughout his battle, he tried to give as much normalcy to his family as possible,’’ Edkins said.
The battle started early in his life as Schmidt dealt with colitis and Crohn’s disease. In 2005 he was diagnosed with early stages of colon cancer and his colon was removed.
He contracted a disease that caused his bile ducts to shut down, which led to liver cancer. He fell into a protocol that made him eligible for a liver transplant, which took place in March of 2017.
Six months after the successful transplant, he was diagnosed with leukemia.
He went into remission from the leukemia for a year, and then it returned. Chemotherapy was unsuccessful, so he underwent a stem cell transplant, using stem cells from his own body.
He wanted to try a promising experimental drug, but four appeals to his insurance company to use it were denied.
His condition worsened. He developed bleeding on the brain, and the leukemia became more aggressive.
Despite his poor health, he got permission for a day pass from Duke so he could return to Fayetteville a see his twins, Darin and Drake, play soccer shortly before his death.
“Even until the end, he was not ready to go,’’ said Kelly McLaurin Schmidt, Davin's wife. “He was still fighting. It was just too much.’’
He died Oct. 3.
“He’s always coached the boys in everything,’’ Kelly said. “Soccer, basketball, baseball.’’
When he started his first recreation team in Hope Mills and named it Gators, friends assumed it was because of Schmidt’s love for the University of Florida.
Kelly said that wasn’t the case. “It’s actually from the time an alligator was found in Hope Mills Lake,’’ she said. “Everybody loved him so much. He never thought he deserved the recognition, but he does.’’
Pictured: Schmidt, an avid duck hunter posed for a picture with his dog, Jäger, after a successful day of hunting.