FRESNO, Calif. - Athletes across the Valley are still mourning the loss of a high school football coaching icon. Tony Perry, an assistant for the Edison Tigers died last Saturday at the age of 54. His team played with heavy hearts Friday night.
Known as T.P. the 'DB Guru', he didn't just impact teens on the field but off the field as well. Both Edison and Buchanan honored his memory before the game Friday night.
For so many Valley football players, Tony Perry made a difference in their lives.
"The man was the most positive human being on earth. I've never met someone that the glass was always half full," said Edison Head Coach Jason Murray.
Perry's positivity helped him put on countless camps for young athletes to hone their skills and focus on getting to college.
"It didn't matter if he was an Edison kid or a Central kid or a Clovis Unified kid. His number one thing he wanted to do is reach out to the college football community and get these Central Valley kids an opportunity to play football at the next level," said Buchanan Athletic Director James Gambrell.
Perry's sudden death hit Edison hard but Murray says the tragedy brought the team closer.
"We just decided to take the approach that we're going to do it all together," said Murray.
The Tigers honor Perry every way they can. His memorable quotes written on cleats. His DB guru shirts worn with pride. The drills he taught, executed to perfection. Walking onto the field with a banner of their late coach as the opponent pays respects, wearing Perry's initials. And T.P.'s grandson named an honorary captain, now apart of the game his grandfather put his heart into. Coach Murray says he can still hear his old assistant on the sideline.
"We're gonna get em'. We got this. Something positive. No matter how dire it got," said Murray.
And Perry's reach is powerful. His protege, former Edison High star Robert Golden who now plays with the Pittsburgh Steelers, sent all white cleats to the Tigers so heartfelt messages could be written on them for the game.