Sergeant Gifford (Spanky) Ramsey
Published on Thursday, January 18, 2007
in the Miami Herald
Killian assistant coach Gifford Carl Ramsey dies at 47
The Killian football team lost one of its inspirational leaders when assistant coach Gifford Carl Ramsey died last Wednesday at Baptist Hospital after a six-month long battle with lung cancer.
He was 47.
In addition to his job as a Sergeant for the Florida Highway Patrol, Ramsey was the Cougars' defensive backs coach for the past six seasons under coach Billy Rolle.
''He was a true inspiration to our kids,'' said Rolle, who played football at Florida A&M two years with Ramsey. ``He would always lead our team in prayer sort of like a team chaplain.''
Ramsey, who was affectionately known as ''Spanky'' by his friends and family in reference to the character from the classic TV show The Little Rascals, graduated from Killian in 1977 after a successful prep football career in which he earned All-Dade and All-State honors.
Ramsey played three seasons at FAMU where he and Rolle were part of the Rattlers two Division I-AA national championships in 1977 and 1978. After his senior season at FAMU, he earned All-American honors. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears, but did not play in the NFL.
A couple of years after graduation, he became a state trooper where he served for the final 24 years of his life. In 2001, he came back to his hometown of Richmond Heights were he was born to coach at Killian.
''He would always give what he could to help the team,'' Rolle said. ``Sometimes he'd show up wearing his trooper uniform on the sidelines and coach like that. It's going to be crazy not seeing him out there next season.''
It was with the student-athletes at Killian that Ramsey, a deacon, trustee and youth director at Glendale Baptist Missionary Church, made his profound impact. He became the coordinator of the Killian alumni's Fellowship of Christian Athlete's organization where he helped students in matters of life.
''He continuously helped out kids that were in need,'' said Ramsey's wife of 12 years, Lisa. ``He had a passion for helping the youth both in church and on the football field.''
Ramsey is survived by his wife, his three sons, Gifford Carl III, Leyland Devon, Jarrett Wyman, and two daughters, LaTosha Nicole and Jayla Marie.
Ramsey's wake will be tonight from 6 to 8 at the Glendale Baptist Missionary Church in Richmond Heights. His memorial service will be Saturday at noon at the same church.
Published on Friday, October 27, 2006
in the Tallahassee Democrat
Football legend faces a new fight
Former Florida A&M All-American safety Gifford "Spanky" Ramsey never thought there was an obstacle too big for him to tackle on the football field.
It's that attitude that enabled him to help the FAMU Rattlers win the first ever NCAA Division I-AA national championship.
It's that same attitude that has guided Ramsey during his 25-year career with the Florida Highway Patrol. It's also what Ramsey believes will help him beat the cancer he was diagnosed with on July 7.
It's that same attitude that FAMU head football Rubin Carter wants Ramsey to share with his team this evening as the Rattlers prepare for Saturday's homecoming game against the Morgan State Bears.
This is the first time Carter has invited a former player to speak to his team.
"I think it's a great idea for him (Ramsey) to speak to the team considering the adversity he is going through," Carter said after Thursday's practice. "He's persevering through his situation. He's fighting it. That's similar to our football team. We've had to fight and persevere through some situations this season."
A proven winner
Ramsey played at FAMU from 1977-1980. During that time, he played on two national championship teams, including an undefeated team in 1977, and played on the 1979 squad that upset the Miami Hurricanes.
He earned All-American honors in 1980 after recording 75 tackles and seven sacks as senior.
"My resume is stamped 'winner'," said Ramsey, who was promoted to sergeant just seven days after being diagnosed with cancer. "I've been a winner all my life. It (cancer) is just an obstacle in my life. I'm going to handle this like I played football, with passion and desire.”
Former FAMU quarterback Albert Chester was a teammate of Ramsey's in 1977 and 1978 and was the one who approached Carter about letting Ramsey speak to the team tonight.
"Spanky was like Richard Pryor," Chester said. "He kept everybody laughing. He was also one of the hardest hitters I've ever seen. I think the kids are really going to enjoy him. What is so impressionable about him is his courage.
"Spanky is very sick, but he could outlive us all. He can share the true grit of what it is like to wear the Orange and Green. There is more to life than playing football, but at the same time life is like football."
Chester's son Albert Chester II is the starting quarterback for the current Rattler football team. The younger Chester has heard stories from his father about Ramsey's exploits on the field.
"I remember watching him make a couple interceptions on film and seeing him return punts," Chester II said. "He was a pretty good player. I think the guys will be able to relate to him."
Ramsey isn't just coming to Tallahassee to speak to the team. This will be the first FAMU homecoming he will have attended in 20 years, so it will also be a chance to catch up with some old teammates.
"Homecoming is about coming and listening to older players and ex-teammates," Ramsey said. "What's funny is everybody thinks their era is the best. He could have played for a 5-6 team, but that's family. I just happened to be caught up in a good era. I like listening to the older Rattlers.
"I decided that I wanted to come to homecoming this year and see my buddies and let them know I'm doing all right. I'm not in the grave yet."
One person looking forward to seeing Ramsey again is former FAMU head football coach Ruddy Hubbard, who said the Rattlers never would have been in a position to win the I-AA national title without the standout safety.
It's Dec. 9, 1978, in Jackson, Miss., and the Florida A&M Rattlers are playing the Jackson State Tigers in the semifinals of the first-ever NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.
The Tigers have the ball and it's fourth-and-1.
As Hubbard recalled, the Tigers had the Rattlers on the ropes.
“It was either them or us at that point,” Hubbard said. “The way they were moving the ball, they were going to get in.”
The Tigers had perhaps the best backfield in the nation, led by All-American Perry Harrington. The Rattlers needed a miracle to stop Harrington from getting the first down.
That miracle was Ramsey, who zeroed in on Harrington and stopped him short of the first down.
Ramsey made such a thunderous hit, he actually knocked himself out.
“I got to the bench, and after that I don't remember anything,” Ramsey said. “When I woke up we were celebrating the game in the locker room. If I miss, they win the game.”
Ramsey's hit helped propel the Rattlers past Jackson State and into the I-AA championship game. They defeated Massachusetts on Dec. 16, 1978, to win the first I-AA national title.
“I didn't even play in the championship game," Ramsey said. "I remember coach (Robert) Mungen's wife hugging me and telling me we won the game. That had to be one of the greatest black-college football teams ever put together and we beat them.”
Hubbard said Ramsey's hit made that win possible.
"Spanky is one of those guys that should be in the Hall of Fame," Hubbard said. "He is one of those guys that defined our team. If we didn't have a Spanky, we wouldn't have a championship.
"I think what they (the players) will see is a winner. He gave everything he had when he was on the field and he's doing the same thing in life.
"He's won everything else and he's taking the same approach. He's planning to win. As long as they give him the right directions, he'll beat it."
"I'm going to handle this like I played football, with passion and desire.”
Gifford "Spanky" Ramsey on his cancer diagnosis
In Memory of Sergeant Gifford (Spanky) Ramsey