Athletes, community pay tribute to well-loved coach killed in crash

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BROOK PARK, Ohio -- Young athletes and many in the community said goodbye to a well-loved coach on Saturday night.

Chuck Willard lost his life in a motorcycle accident on Monday, but he will always be remembered for his spirit on the sidelines.

At the stadium on Engle Road, the youth tackle football team played as scheduled, but everyone paid tribute to the 38-year-old. Everyone had heavy hearts.

"It's like I'm in a dream, and I haven't woken up," said Chuck Willard, who is the coach's father. "The light went out in my life, my heart is broken, I don't have any words."

Willard died in the accident on Interstate 77 when authorities said he was on his motorcycle, and it somehow collided with a semi.

"He was the most wonderful person in the world. I love my son, he loved me, he loved his family, he loved his boys, he did everything he could possibly do for them," Willard said.

Number 19 played for his father Saturday night.

Austin Willard told family members he just had to be out on the field.

"He said 'no, he wanted to play. That's what dad would want me to do'," Willard said.

"It's hard for us coaches, it doesn't feel real," said fellow coach, Ed Orcutt. "It's quiet over there without Coach Chuck."

Described as a community cheerleader, Willard believed in the kids.

"He was school spirit, and talked to the kids about doing the right thing in life, and cheering your teammates on," Orcutt said.

There was so much love for Coach Willard Saturday night. People bought 'Willard Strong' T-shirts and made donations in his name.

"This isn't your average guy, he coached all of the sports, did every event," said Orcutt.

"He was a great kid, he meant a lot to these kids and they all know him and respect him, they played hard for him," Willard said.