OVERCOMING IT ALL: Coach refuses to let life’s struggles define him

Bauxite Assistant Coach Tommy Wimberly is a former Miner football player, graduating in 2008 before attending Henderson State University. He is currently in his fifth year of coaching. JOSH BRIGGS/The Saline Courier
Josh Briggs
Managing Editor

Imagine living in a mobile home with holes in the floor, roaches, rodents and no running water in the bathroom.

Imagine going to school each day wearing the same clothing as the day before because that is all you had.

Then, above all else, imagine being a junior in high school when you become a father. That is the real-life story of Bauxite assistant football coach Tommy Wimberly.

“You never really knew what you were going to get because there was no consistency,” Wimberly said. “Mom and dad were alcoholics and drug addicts. We grew up in a single-wide trailer with holes in the floor. It was a terrible living situation.”

Wimberly and his family moved to the Bauxite area from Little Rock “because we were in the middle of the hood, living from house to house each month because we couldn’t keep up with the rent.”
The family was contacted by a couple from Tull who sold them land cheap.

“We found a trailer for $500 and moved in,” Wimberly said. “Me and my brothers would play and have a good time because we didn’t know we were poor. We just knew, growing up, we couldn’t get things that we wanted. We couldn’t go out to eat. That was a part of living. That’s what we thought when we were growing up.”
Despite his living situation, Wimberly continued to have perfect school attendance through middle school.

“It was something I had to do because if I didn’t, I didn’t know if I was going to get fed that day,” Wimberly said. “Not only did I enjoy going to school because of the food, it was just a great environment to be around. I had a lot of really good friends without the atmosphere of doubt and hatefulness. It was all love, most of the time.”
Wimberly added that his teachers really helped him mature in life and knew that his situation at the time did not have to define who he was.

“I had so many teachers that helped me along the way,” Wimberly said. “Mrs. Lisa Gillespie was my second-grade teacher and she was one of the ones that really impacted my life. She always told me, even if I wasn’t wearing nice clothes, if I had a nice shirt on she would say ‘hey, that’s a really nice shirt.’ Just little things like that.”
His sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Paula Allinson, was another influential piece of his life.
“She told me she wanted to adopt me a couple of times but told me she knew that wasn’t her place,” he said.
Mrs. Charlotte Tarver, too, was an important part of Wimberly’s childhood.

“My wife and I weren’t able to afford a tuxedo and a dress for our senior prom, but she went out and rented those for us,” Wimberly said. “There were so many teachers along the way that did stuff for me and never gave up on me. They were always encouraging and always knew that if I kept my head on straight that I was going to be successful. They never failed to tell me that.”
While his childhood was full of question marks, Wimberly’s life really took a turn during his junior year at Bauxite when he learned he would be a teenage father.

“I was scared to death,” Wimberly said. “We were at my wife’s cousin’s house when she took the test. When it came back positive I was ready to quit school and go to work.
“Never once did anyone ever tell me that this was going to ruin my life or that it was going to turn my life for the worst or that I was going to be a statistic. Everybody was always encouraging, telling me this was something that I could overcome.”
It wasn’t for a couple of weeks that Wimberly’s eventual in-laws would learn the news.
“I told them that I was ready to man up and marry Kayla,” Wimberly said. “They said no and that they would help us along the way. They added on a room to their house for us. To be honest, if it weren’t for my wife and her family, I don’t know where I would have ended up in that situation.

“They were the rock that I needed. The foundation that I needed to start building my life on. It was scary and I was a nervous wreck. Then, going to school every day after being up three times a night with a son, it was hard. But with the help around me and the support system around me, I got through it.”

Wimberly and his high-school sweetheart now have two sons.
Kayla would drop out of school, but earned her General Education Degree before Wimberly graduated high school.

“She was working to earn money while I was still in high school,” Wimberly added.
During his high school years, Wimberly turned to football to help keep him motivated.

“It was my motivation,” he said. “Football is what kept me going. If it weren’t for football, I would have probably ended up in jail. Coach John Watson was a huge part of my life, and all the other coaches as well. Those guys were the men in my life that I needed and that pushed me to be the man I needed to be.

“Without football, I probably wouldn’t have been able to handle the adversity that I was able to handle in my life. The game of football taught me how to overcome and push through. That’s why I coach the game now because I know what it can do for young men that may be facing a similar situation.”

Following graduation in 2008, Wimberly moved his family to Gurdon to attend college at Henderson State University.

While his college playing career never developed, Wimberly continued through college.
While still a student, Wimberly volunteered as a coach at Glen Rose High School for two years before taking on a coaching internship at Poyen High School.

After graduation, Wimberly earned his first professional coaching position at Hamburg High School, where he would stay two years before returning to where it all started – Bauxite.

Now back at The Pit with the pick and shovel on his shirt, Wimberly said he is home and proud of the person he has become.

He also is excited to see Bauxite football return to the lore that it is known for.

“Last year you kind of had the feeling of how Bauxite football used to be,” Wimberly said. “That Glen Rose game, that atmosphere was Bauxite Miner football that I remember.

“Two years ago was a struggle. We didn’t have a lot of depth and we didn’t have a lot of experience. But last year was a stepping stone and that Glen Rose game is something I will never forget.”