Bossier City youth sports coach Tommy Long feels has had a good run coaching his son and many others in basketball, football and baseball over the past half dozen years.
"I've seen them grow up from little boys, losing their first teeth, getting their first touchdown and hitting their first home run, to where they are now at junior high school."
For the most part, Long has coached the same group through three sports seasons a year for the past six years.
As they become too old for youth programs and his successful run as a youth coach slowly begins to wind down, he now faces his biggest battle yet.
"When I went in for the MRI results," Long says, pausing as he explains his reluctance to go the doctor after injuring his left knee twice in a matter of weeks.
"When the words tumor came out of his mouth, and serious, and specialist and Baylor, it really hit me at that time that it wasn't just something I'm going to get operated on."
Long expected to hear the doctor discuss a torn ligament.
He did not know that within weeks he already would be undergoing chemotherapy with a surgery to remove the golf ball-size tumor, his knee and additional bone in his leg in hopes of stopping the osteosarcoma in its tracks.
"God willing and all the support and prayer and great doctors, I feel I'll come out of this shining like a new penny," Long said.
"Tommy is a not just their coach, but he's a good mentor, a role model, a father figure for our kids," said Yolanda Jefferson, whose son Cameron has played for Long in all three sports.
"When I first heard, it was devastating and shocking," she said.
"But I also know God can answer prayers; and I know Tommy is going to be good."
One of Long's former rivals on the Bossier Parks and Recreation football field, Hal Fulghum, has put together a fundraiser to help Long during his fight against cancer.
A fish fry fundraiser will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. May 3 at Vicki's School of Dance off Benton Road.
Fulghum said he has nothing but respect and prayers for Long.
"The kids played hard for him; they love him. And when you see that, you've got to say to yourself, "He's doing something right'."
Other coaches echo Fulghum's sentiments, including former baseball rival coach Mark Howard.
"For him to come out here and spend all of his time, and I mean all of his free time, with kids, that's something you respect. You hope a coach gives to their team 24-7, and that's what Tommy does," Howard said.
Parents from Long's sports teams have set up a GoFundMe account to also help raise money for him and his family.
"You know, God is in the miracle-working business," Jefferson said.
"And Tommy might be a testimony for somebody else."
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