MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis State football family paid its last respects to football coach Rex Dockery and three other men who died in an airplane crash just two weeks before Christmas.
Eight of Dockery's players stood before the crowd of 1,100 at the Mid-South Coliseum Wednesday and told of their love for the coach who turned the Memphis State program around and produced the first winning record for the team in six years.
Quarterback Danny Sparkman put the tributes in perspective.
'Knowing them has made a difference in our lives,' he said, his voice choking with emotion. 'They have changed our lives for the better. They loved us and we loved them.
Dockery's offensive coordinator, Chris Faros, was also killed in Monday's crash along with defensive back Charles Greenhill and the pilot, Glenn Jones, one of the Tigers' biggest supporters.
'They did more for this team than just win six victories on the football field,' said Monsignor Paul Clunan. 'These men will live on in our lives.'
Clunan said the four men were 'the best and brightest we have to offer.'
Chip Wisdom, defensive coordinator, said 'life sometimes doesn't offer us choices. It presents us with challenges.'
'They are the best from our ranks who died in the service of something they loved,' Wisdom said.
Dr. Thomas Carpenter, university president, said all four were a credit to Memphis State and Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris said they all made great contributions to the city.
'These men left this life as winners,' Morris said. 'Winners in the truest sense of the word.'
Dockery's widow, Wallene, and their two sons, Dee and Trey, along with the survivors of the other men all sat quietly in the first row of seats during the service, bravely listening to the tributes paid by their friends and fellow coaches.
Dockery will be buried Friday in his hometown of Cleveland, Tenn. Greenhill's funeral is set for Thursday at Frayser High School in Memphis. Jones' funeral is also on Thursday in Memphis.
The funeral for Faros will be in Kansas City, but arrangements were incomplete.