I didn't really know Joseph Bagwell, other than to say hello in passing in the Auburn Football Complex, but I learned Monday that I had seen him long before he was an Auburn student coach. Former colleague John Pruett reminded me his father was an Advertising executive at The Huntsville Times for most of the years I was there.
Just hours before Auburn went to play LSU on Saturday, Joseph died after suffering a massive heart attack. He'd been born with serious heart problems, undergoing three surgeries before he was 3 years old. But in is his short life, Joseph lived a dream. He was part of the 2010 national championship. His national championship ring was a prized possession. Devout in his faith, he touched so many with whom he came in contact. Auburn coach Gene Chizik was near tears Saturday night as he told reporters of Joseph's death.
Joseph's parents were Alabama fans, but he was an Auburn fan from the time he was young. He loved football, though he couldn't play it. He was a student manager at Huntsville High School. After asking former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville for an opportunity, he filled similar roles at Auburn before becoming a student coach. Coaching is what he wanted to do in his life. He would have graduated next August.
Instead, he'll laid to rest Wednesday in Huntsville. Those attending the services have been asked to wear Auburn colors.
"He was the kind of kid who put everybody else before himself," Kevin Wieseman, Joseph's coach at Huntsville High, told The Huntsville Times. "He was limited because of his health conditions all his life, but if you walked into a room you could see he was interested in everybody other than himself.
"He was somebody our guys gravitated to. The fact he coached at Auburn shows you how strong he was to get in that position. It took a lot of guts and determination. That just shows you the kind of young man he was."
And now he is gone far too soon.
The past four months have been difficult for Auburn football players. They lost former teammates Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips in June. And now they've lost another friend as close as a teammate,
Winning and losing in football doesn't matter a lot compared to the loss of one who was such an example of determination and dedication, one who meant so much to so many.