Thursday, October 2, 2014

Coach Lee Hanning touched countless lives at Wofford and beyond

Lee Hanning influenced the lives of many more than just Wofford kickers and punters.

The Wofford College family lost a great man on Thursday afternoon; Lee Hanning, 90, served as the Terriers' kickers' coach from 1989 to 2009, with a brief hiatus for the 1997 season.

Before coaching at Wofford College, though, Hanning was busy serving his country.

As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, Hanning was a part in integral stages of World War II, from descending on the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944, to serving in the Battle of the Bulge.

In 1989, Hanning noticed that Wofford's kickers were being deprived of proper attention during practices. Following an exchange with Mike Ayers, he took the position as Wofford's kickers' coach.

Although he wasn't always largely involved in the kicking game, the Nemacolin, Pa., native took on the job, wisely consulting the company of professional players, among others, when the Carolina Panthers training camp was in its stages of infancy several years later.

Hanning helped produce loads of talent for the Terriers' special teams attack. In fact, two punters, four years separate aimed for an NFL chance; Brandon Kale signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2000, and Jimmy Miner did the same with the St. Louis Rams in 2004.

Lee Hanning undoubtedly changed Wofford for the better. "Coach Hanning was a throwback in all the right ways," Wofford radio play-by-play voice Mark Hauser recounted. "He jumped out of a plane when he was nineteen. Not for fun, but to defeat the Nazis in one of the most deadly chapters of war in recorded history. That alone made him a great American."

Terrier color analyst Thom Henson said that his memories of Coach Hanning are "of a man who simply was a true hero. I always enjoyed any opportunity to talk to him and every conversation included politics, investments, and football."

Henson especially remembered "a conversation while sitting on couches in the lobby of a hotel in Statesboro, Ga. We talked about the military and what America meant to us all while watching an SEC game on TV. He moved quickly from a comment about patriotism to a comment about the form of a punter. I felt every chance to talk with him was a chance for me to learn something."

"He truly loved Wofford College and we are a better place because of Coach Lee Hanning."

For Hauser, that feeling is mutual.

"He loved his players and Wofford. Rest in peace, Lee."

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