Hundreds pay final respects to University of Memphis Football Coach - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Justin Hanson

Hundreds pay final respects to University of Memphis Football Coach

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - He was a fixture with the University of Memphis Athletics Department for 46 years.

On Wednesday, family, friends, former players and colleagues said goodbye to former Tiger Assistant Coach John Murray Armstrong.

To many, Armstrong was more than a coach -- he was like a father to the hundreds of football players he encountered in his nearly 50-year coaching career. 

"He reminded you of your father --- stern but always fair...loved him to death," said former player Darrell Higdon.

"Certainly became those surrogate parents to so many young student athletes that came here, and made them feel like that was their home and the dorms were an extension of their home," said University of Memphis Associate Athletic Director Bob Winn. 

Armstrong recruited Winn to play football long before he began his administrative jobs.

The athletic dorms were home to Armstrong and his wife Joan for many years. 

While Armstrong coached and managed the dorm, his wife served as dorm mother. 

"He would wake everybody up in the morning ---- always had a smile on his face and always excited," Higdon said.

Hundreds filled the First United Methodist Church in Somerville Wednesday to pay final respects to the beloved coach.

"He kind of got them excited before I got in there," said University of Memphis head football coach Tommy West.

West remembers Armstrong's enthusiastic spirit and no-nonsense attitude on the field.

"He might crack a bit of dry humor, but for the most part he was all business when he got on that field."

Many remember Armstrong's determination as special teams coach. They say if a player made a mistake, Armstrong would be the first to correct it.

"He walked you out there the next day at practice and took you right back to that spot and said 'let's fix our mistake right here,'" said former player Joe Allison.

Many said Armstrong lived his life like the offensive players he coached, opening a path to let others run in a touchdown.

There's a place online where you can read more about Coach Murray Armstrong and leave your condolences.

Just click here to visit that Web site.

Click here to e-mail Justin Hanson.

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