It seems that Ronny Massey’s life was always intertwined with football. From his youth in Chatom, Alabama to Livingston University to one of the state’s most influential and successful coaching careers.
Ronny was the fifth of eight children and was a terrific athlete for the Chatom Bulldogs, starring in football, basketball, and baseball. He quarterbacked the Bulldogs to back to back undefeated regular season seasons in the late 60s. Upon graduation he walked on at the University of Alabama before transferring to Livingston University, where he was a member of the Tiger’s 1971 NAIA National Championship team. Ronny became the starting quarterback at Livingston in 1972 and ’73, breaking numerous school records and leading the ’72 squad to the national semifinals. He also met and married his wife Helen “Ace” Hutchinson while at Livingston.
But he wasn’t anywhere close to being finished with football. In 1974 Ronny embarked on a coaching career working as an assistant coach and Algebra teacher at Grissom High School in Huntsville. He didn’t work as an assistant long. In 1976 Ronny headed back to southwest Alabama as the new head coach at Thomasville High School, taking over a program that had won only 5 games the two previous years. He coached the Tigers for four seasons, finishing with a record of 30-14 and two playoff appearances while leaving an indelible mark on the school and community.
In 1982, Coach Massey took on the task of rebuilding the Citronelle Wildcats, The school had managed only two winning campaigns in the previous decade. On October 8, 1982 Ronny pulled off a rare double feat that few coaches have managed to accomplish- he was present for the birth of his daughter Katie and made it to the Wildcat’s game by halftime, a 35-0 win over Grand Bay. The Masseys would spend 17 years at Citronelle with Ronny coaching football, Ace working with multiple girls teams and his children Matt and Katie growing up there and playing sports. In his 17 seasons as head coach, Citronelle would make the playoffs 10 times. The year 1991 was magical for Citronelle High School. Ronny’s team had the only undefeated regular season ever and won 12 games, marks that still stand today. On November 15, 1991 Citronelle defeated Williamson 40-33 for the school’s very first playoff win.
By 1999, Coach Massey was ready for a new challenge and returned to his coaching roots by taking the head coaching position at struggling Grissom High where he had started some 25 years earlier. His 10 years of leadership resulted in historic achievements, including a memorable 12-2 season in 2000. That season Grissom was led by future Tennessee star Jayson Swain and Tulane head football coach Jon Sumrall and made it all the way to the 6A semi finals before losing to Hoover. But Ronny’s impact there extended beyond wins and losses: he tirelessly worked to improve facilities and earned the admiration of the Grissom and Huntsville communities.
In 2009 Coach Massey took the job of coaching quarterbacks at Buckhorn High School, reuniting on the staff with his son Matt who had played for him at Citronelle. He had just taken the job at Richland (Tn) High School when he discovered he had cancer. Ronny Massey succumbed to cancer on August 17, 2010 leaving behind a legacy of family and community as well as a reputation as one of the state’s most respected coaches. He also left a strong spiritual influence, serving as Sunday school teacher and deacon of his home churches throughout his coaching career.
Saraland football coach jeff Kelley played quarterback for Ronny at Citronelle.
“Playing ball for Coach Massey was one of the great privileges of my life,” Coach Kelley said. “He had a way of making everyone feel like they were the most important guy on our team. He cared for each player and wanted them to do right on and off the field. There are a lot of kids around Citronelle today who have better fathers because their dad played for Coach Massey. He made me love the game of football and is the reason I wanted to be a coach.”
It was hard to be a player for Ronny Massey and not understand in later life just how fortunate you really were.
The Alabama Football Coaches Association is proud to bestow its Lifetime Achievement Award upon Coach Ronny Massey.