BREAKING: Astronaut High’s Jay Donnelly Passes Away Monday Afternoon At Shands Hospital
By Space Coast Daily // November 28, 2016
'We lost a great War Eagle today'
ABOVE VIDEO: Jay Donnelly, the architect of Astronaut’s golden years of athletics and a 2015 inductee of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame, passed away this Monday afternoon at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. In 1972, Brevard School District superintendent Abe Collingsworth recruited Donnelly to nurture the football and baseball teams at the brand new school. Collingsworth picked the perfect man, who shaped a formidable football team, seemingly effortlessly and immediately.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Jay Donnelly, the architect of Astronaut’s golden years of athletics and a 2015 inductee of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame, passed away Monday afternoon at Shands Hospital in Gainesville.
“Jay meant so much to so many of us who worked, coached and attended Astronaut High School,” said longtime coach Mike Hoctor.
“It will be difficult for me not to be able to pick up the phone and talk to him, as we often did about this, that, and everything. We lost a great War Eagle today.”
Hoctor said in a Facebook post that services at this time are undisclosed, but will probably occur in Titusville.
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JAY DONNELLY – 2015 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
• Florida Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame
• Astronaut High School Sports Hall of Fame
• First War Eagle Football, Baseball Coach
WAR EAGLES’ FIRST COACH
Astronaut High School’s football team is legendary in the state and Jay Donnelly, the football powerhouse’s first coach, is the man responsible for fueling the legend.
In 1972, Brevard School District superintendent Abe Collingsworth recruited Donnelly to nurture the football and baseball teams at the brand new school.
Collingsworth picked the perfect man, who shaped a formidable football team, seemingly effortlessly and immediately.
“We won district and went to state playoffs the first year,” said Donnelly.
Mind you, Astronaut was so new it wasn’t even open yet.
“At first, we had to double up at Titusville High School because Astronaut wasn’t ready for occupancy yet,” said Donnelly.
“The Titusville students went early in the morning and the Astronaut school day was from 12:30 to 5, which meant we had to do our practices very early in the morning.”
The promise he found in his players, the impressive talent of his coaching staff and the support the team experienced from the community made for golden days for Donnelly.
“I wish everyone had the opportunity to open a new school,” he said.
Born in Connecticut, but raised in West Palm Beach, Donnelly graduated from Palm Beach High School, where he lettered in football and baseball.
“I had a good background in baseball, but football captured my imagination,” said Donnelly.
A definite Gator, he received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Florida. For three years, he was a Gator baseball player, working under coach Dave Fuller.
Military service in Korea followed graduation from college, but by 1969, Donnelly was back in sports, this time as a head baseball coach and as linebacker coach at Miami Columbus High School.
His efforts there netted him Dade County Coach of the Year recognition.
BEST WINNING PERCENTAGE
Astronaut’s record under Donnelly’s guidance is hard to beat.
His overall record was 122-36-2.
By the time he retired from coaching in 1987 to become the school’s athletic director, Donnelly had helped shape Astronaut into a school with the best winning percentage of any football program in Florida in all classifications.
War Eagles Cris Collinsworth, Wilber Marshall and John Bostic helped their school snag the distinction of having the most players in the NFL of any high school in the country.
Under Donnelly’s tenure, the War Eagles swept nine conference titles, won or shared eight district titles and participated in the state playoffs. Astronaut’s 1976 and 1979 teams also reached state semi-finals.
Seventy-three War Eagle players were named to an All-State team, while Cris Collingsworth and Wilber Marshall became first team Parade All-Americans.
Beyond the kudos, Donnelly is proud that 70 of his players were able to further their education through football scholarships.
Donnelly’s influence at Astronaut does not end with football. During his 23 years as the school’s athletic director, the War Eagles gathered two state championships as the Florida Athletic Coaches’ Association 3A Program of the Year.
Inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 1994, Donnelly joined Astronaut High School’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2007, the War Eagles’ new football field was named Jay Donnelly Field.
Golf, tennis and scuba diving are the sports that now keep Donnelly and his wife, Judy, active. Of course, he also definitely follows the War Eagles.
THE 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 12.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT the 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTION, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail Contact@SpaceCoastDaily.com
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