April 25 links coaches’ families through tragedy, triumph

To most, April 25 is probably just another day. That’s simply not the case in the world of Northwest Louisiana high school sports. It’s a day that rocked the community in consecutive years with incredibly different outcomes.

In 2014, Rodney Guin, then Haughton High School’s head football coach, suffered a heart attack on April 25. Doctors dubbed his eventual survival as a miracle. One year later, Richard Lary – Captain Shreve’s head coach – suffered a heart attack at a Gators baseball game. He did not survive.

On April 25, 2016, Mike Greene, now Loyola’s head football coach, said many in his business pondered going to a doctor in case something happened.

Although the outcomes were completely different, this didn’t simply become a story of one family’s tragedy and another’s gift. These men and their families are not only linked in tragedy, but inspiration, fortitude and heartwarming tales.

Guin left Haughton and eventually became the head coach at Calvary Baptist Academy. Since his heart attack, he and wife, Tracy, have acquired a pair of son-in-laws, four grandchildren for daughters Mallory and Maggie and a 2020 state championship.

“That is the one thing I think about: What if I hadn’t survived that?” Guin told The Journal. “What about all of the great things that have happened to my family since?”

Lary left behind wife, Becky, and two daughters, Ally and Camryn.

Ally, the oldest, is set to graduate from the University of Alabama. When the Larys and Bootys (Becky’s side of the family) gather in Tuscaloosa for the May 7 ceremony, it will mark Richard’s birthday on the first trip to T-Town for Richard’s mother, Joann.

Ally’s graduation isn’t the only reason for Richard to smile from above. The coach’s daughter will stay at Alabama to continue her education after accepting a position as a Recruiting Operations Intern in the Crimson Tide athletic department.

“She’s not a coach, but she’s in the sports industry,” Becky Lary said. “(Richard) would love it. She’s following in his footsteps in a little different way.”

As a 15-year-old, Ally showed incredible resilience following the unthinkable tragedy.

“She was our spokesperson,” Becky said. “She was a rock, but not just for me and Camryn — she went to school with all the (Captain Shreve) teachers and the football team – they were all devastated. Those were kids and coaches who used to come to our house. She told them all everything was going to be OK.”

Camryn joined her sister in Tuscaloosa and is nearing the end of her freshman year. She’s following in both parents’ footsteps as she pursues a career in education.

“Ally has Richard’s dynamic personality – she’s never met a stranger,” Becky said. “Camryn is like me, a little more quiet. She’s not shy, but she has Richard’s sense of humor and wit.”

Said Greene: “They are stubborn just like he was, so they’re going to be successful. They have the same drive as their dad.”

Bryant Sepulvado, who accepted the arduous task of replacing Lary, his best friend, at Captain Shreve, is amazed at how the family has progressed.

“I know he’s smiling,” Sepulvado said. “Ally is in the football business, Cam is on a great path and Becky holding everything together — she’s gotta be a saint.”

One of the Larys’ favorite things to do was travel.

“We would always do sports,” said Becky, who liked the Braves while Richard rooted for the Astros. “A typical vacation would be to Wrigley Field, but then the American Girl store and the mall. He was a good girl dad.”

Becky hasn’t stopped. There have been plenty of trips to see the girls and with the girls. And now she’s found some fellow empty nesters, too.”

“Richard and I made a bucket list – some of the places were just crazy,” Becky said. “I can still mark some of them off.”

Captain Shreve’s football program struggled to find its feet in the wake of the devastating loss, but now it’s thriving.

“I did fear the challenge (of following in Lary’s footsteps), but honestly I had just lost my best friend so a lot of that went out the window,” Sepulvado said. “At my first meeting with the team, I told them, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do this, but we’re going to do it together.’”

Sepulvado has led the Gators to a couple of District 1-5A crowns. In 2021, Captain Shreve posted its first season with double-digit wins (10) since 1983.

“(Richard) would be the first one jumping up and down,” Sepulvado said. “He was my best friend. He’s on Cloud 9. He was one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met.”

Greene still feels the urge to call or talk to Richard Lary on a daily basis, and he recently had a difficult time parting ways with a reminder of his late friend.

“I had a truck with an RL sticker (made in Shreve colors to honor Lary following his death) on the back of it. It was so beat up I had to sell it — Richard probably tore it up back in the years,” Greene said. “I didn’t care about the truck, but that sticker. I tried to peel it off, but it crumbled. That hurt.”

Neither family has formal plans to do anything today, but reflection is certainly in order.

“We’ll pull out some pictures or some home videos and give ourselves that time,” Becky said. “It’s not really a tradition because we talk about him all the time. We don’t save those moments (for April 25).”

It’s like the Larys in Alabama and Louisiana will be able to press play on One Republic’s song “I Lived,” something impossible in the aftermath of Richard’s death.

At Lary’s funeral, the song accompanied a powerful slideshow of mostly family pictures.

“Now we can hear it and be happy about it,” Becky said. “My girls just think about how lucky they were to have Richard for the time they did.”

Rodney Guin continues to change the lives of young people and serve as an inspiration for others. Richard Lary isn’t much different. The darkest days in the lives of their families may have prevented others from the same fate.

“I know it’s true,” Sepulvado said. “When I took over (at Shreve), my wife said, ‘If you’re going to do this, you’re going to get checked out.’ The stress was one of her fears.

“Now I have a cardiology appointment every year before we start football season. After Richard died, I went to an appointment and I saw Mike Greene and four other coaches there.”

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