By: Sydney Sanders
In his fifth year at Oak Grove High School, offensive line Coach Lonny Schraeder may have a few things to brag about, but you won’t hear him taking credit for any of his success.
After 18 years of coaching football at Petal High School, as defensive line coach/defensive coordinator and later as head coach, Schraeder joined forces with longtime friend and fellow coach of 21 years, Nevil Barr at Oak Grove. “I think every coach realizes when it is best for everyone involved to step down and turn over the reigns of the football team,” Schraeder said. “I had done my best, but it was time to move on. Coach Barr and I had coached together in Petal for 12 years; he has been one of the strongest influences in my life for the years I have known him. I called him up after I resigned, and I ended up getting the job over here that summer – only by the grace of God.”
But what sets this man apart from other coaches of the Warrior football program goes far beyond football?
In 1981, as a student at USM, Schraeder was involved in an accident in which he and a friend were hit by a drunk driver. The accident, which resulted in the death of his friend, caused severe damage to Schraeder’s legs, forcing doctors to amputate both below the knee. In spite of that devastating event, he never fails to brighten the lives of others with his positive spirit. “I have always loved football and being around kids. I never wanted to do anything else but be a football coach. After the accident, I tried business for a semester at Southern Miss, hated it, and went back into education and coaching,” Schraeder said. “I have been blessed to have done this for as long as I have – once again, God’s grace. I mean, how many bi-lateral amputees do you know that are coaching football, especially for this long?”
Shraeder not only coaches and teaches biology, but also is a motivational speaker, in a sense. “I’ve probably shared my testimony hundreds of times. No exaggeration,” Schraeder said. “I try to tell it to all of my classes, plus to anyone who asks. If at all possible, I tell it. It never gets old to me, and it’s hard not to get emotional each time I tell it because I’m reminded every time of how good God has been to me.”
Schraeder indeed came out triumphant. When describing his life since the accident, he recalled one of his favorite verses, 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10. “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ By ‘the world’s’ standards, I’m damaged goods, but God takes us damaged people and uses us to show others His power and glory,” Schraeder said. “If others look at me and say that I have been triumphant over my situation, it isn’t me that has won the victory; it’s Christ’s power working through me. We all are damaged in one way or another – jars of clay – my situation is just more obvious. I have been so blessed since my accident. I have a wonderful family, get to do what I love to do with my best friends, and get to be a small part of kids’ lives and hopefully be a positive influence on them.”
For his first three years at OG, Schraeder coached on the defensive side. “I’ve always wanted to coach O-line, being a former offensive lineman myself,” Schraeder said, “and have been blessed to coach the O-line for the last two years.”
Many of Schraeder’s offensive players look to him as a motivator, leader, and hero. “For the very few years I’ve known Coach, he’s been an inspiration to me,” senior running back Jay Hughes said. “He always knows how to encourage us and keep our chins up in a tough game. His faith really comes out through his actions on and off the field.”
Last year’s recipient of the National High School Spirit of Sport Award given by the National Federation of State High School Associations, Schraeder’s influence on his team is evident. “This has truly been an amazing season, even with all of the injuries, the two big losses, and all of the uncertainty of the media,” Schraeder said. “We could’ve folded early, but instead, we kept working and trusting each other and playing hard. I also believe we trusted that God had a plan for this team and that whatever His plan was, would be best. We’ve drawn closer as a family, we’re more mentally tough, and we’re a better team for having survived all of the adversity. I haven’t been a part of a team that has this kind of chemistry in all of the 23 years that I’ve coached, and I hate that it had to end last Friday. South Panola is a very good team – they haven’t dominated the state for the last decade for nothing. I’ve always said that I would like to have the opportunity to play them and see just how good they are, and we got that chance! We give God all of the honor, glory, and praise for getting this far, and we’ll continue to praise him through our loss last Friday.”
Although a Warrior at heart, Schraeder resides in Petal with his wife, Missy, four children, Adam, Kate, Sarah, and Molly, and is the proud grandfather of Madelyn.