By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
West End High School principal Mark Stancil said it best.
“The world is a better place because he lived.”
Stancil was referring to Brent Clifton, who was involved in practically everything at West End for forty years as both an athlete, teacher and coach.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Clifton taught science and physical education and coached all sports for both boys and girls. Since 1988 he primarily taught botany, zoology and biology to junior and senior high students.
Clifton lost a short battle with leukemia on March 28, 2011.
West End High School faculty and staff unveiled a plaque on April 14 in honor of Clifton. The plaque, which features a likeness of Clifton at a young age, is mounted on front of the Patriots’ field house wall beside longtime coach and teacher Wayne Robinson. A group of no less than fifty attended the ceremony.
“[Clifton] had a phenomenal career in education and impacted so many lives during those years,” Stancil said. “He truly found his calling in life [teaching] while on this earth. He was a great teacher, mentor and friend.”
It is fitting that Clifton and Robinson be recognized together, albeit posthumously. The two men were best of friends and coached together for many years.
“It is impossible to think of one without thinking of the other,” Stancil said. “During school hours, and oftentimes after school, you never saw one without the other. They were very close and that carried over into their coaching.”
One of Clifton’s most challenging obstacles occurred in 1987, when Robinson lost his battle with cancer. Clifton immediately took over as head football coach for the 1987 season, during which the Patriots finished with a 10-2 record.
“We started a job and I felt it was my responsibility to see it through,” Clifton said in 1988.
Clifton resigned his coaching duties in May 1988 to spend more time with his daughter Angela, and he never coached again.
Clifton was loved and admired by all in the West End High School community. He was voted Teacher of the Year many times, including the 2010-11 school year.
Clifton is arguably the “model” student athlete. He was valedictorian of the West End High School class of 1969, voted Mr. West End his senior year and was voted as Etowah County’s Most Valuable Player in basketball during his senior season, including numerous other awards voted on by his peers.
Clifton’s door was always open to anyone who needed extra help on schoolwork, sought a good story or just wanted someone to talk to.
“I want to thank his family for sharing him with us all those years,” West End graduate Chad Robertson said. “He had a great impact on all of our lives and he is sorely missed.”
Clifton impacted many generations of Choctaws, Tigers and Patriots.
“He taught the parents and grandparents of many of his current students,” Stancil said. “He taught with the same enthusiasm and zeal that he had when he began his career. What a tremendous asset he was to our school and community.”
A man of many, many words, Clifton summed up his career best a few years ago.
“I am sure other careers would have been rewarding as well, but I am glad I chose this one. I couldn’t have asked for anything more if I’d written it in a script.”
Joshua Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org