Ronald “Coach G” Gilliland • February 24, 2023

Ronnie “Coach G” Gilliland, 73, was a beloved and respected husband, daddy, papaw, brother, friend, coach and teammate. On Friday, February 24, 2023, surrounded by his wife and three children, he joined his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Since their first fairy tale meeting as freshmen in high school, Coach G was passionately committed to one woman, his wife Kathy, for a total of 58 years. Coach G and Kathy were married 52 years, beginning July 25, 1970. Together, they taught and coached at multiple schools, ministering to youth at every stop along the way and opening their home and hearts to every player and student they taught.
Coach G graduated from Minor High School in Birmingham, AL in 1968 where he was a standout competitive athlete in football and baseball, playing multiple positions including running back and free safety. He went on to play collegiate football, initially as a fullback, at Livingston University (now University of West Alabama) in Livingston, AL. In the summer of his freshman year, he was in a catastrophic accident falling 28 feet and sustaining multiple injuries. After a remarkable recovery, Coach G bounced back and regained a position at offensive tackle for the remainder of his college career. He was an integral member of the 1971 National Championship team for Livingston University. This experience has remained a notable part of his life and led to some of the most cherished life-long friendships with those teammates still today. He, along with his teammates, were inducted into the University of West Alabama Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2021.
There are many stories of Coach G’s efforts, accomplishments, and optimism in the face of adversity, to which he is often described as the consummate teammate, a fierce competitor and “tough as nails” both physically and mentally, on and off the field. The battles he participated in as player and coach are legendary and will remain a part of his lore for generations to come – as everyone has a story about Coach G.
As a coach, he started his career in Foley, AL, as a fiery, young assistant coach for football and baseball, making an immediate and lasting impression on the Foley community and many life-long friendships. Coach G, Kathy and their eldest son Chad returned to the Birmingham area where he coached at Banks High School, serving as a part of the legendary teams of the early 70’s and coaching historic battles against teams such as Woodlawn. His coaching career continued, known for his offensive prowess in a triple option attack and variations of the wishbone offense at Hewitt-Trussville and Jess Lanier High Schools until his first head coaching stint at Oak Grove High School. Coach G led the Oak Grove Tigers through an illustrious season winning the 1983 State Championship – earning Coach of Year honors and Sportsmanship of the Year honors.
After Oak Grove, Coach G continued to Troy, AL, where he also coached Chad, at Charles Henderson High School and continued to impact lives throughout the community. Following Troy, he returned to Birmingham for a second stint as Offensive Coordinator at Jess Lanier High School then on to Head Coach at Pelham High School where he led the program to its first playoff berth in school history. Chad and Tara, Coach G’s daughter, both graduated from Pelham, and Coach G finished his 25-year career in the State of Alabama.

Just as he had said he would, Coach G and the Gilliland family returned to the Gulf Coast where he coached at Escambia High School in Pensacola, FL, coaching his youngest son, Brett. Coach G led Escambia to multiple playoff runs and a State Championship appearance throughout his 11-year stint. He finished his coaching career at West Florida High School in Pensacola in 2011, where he helped initiate the program’s rise to prominence. Following his coaching career, Coach G represented the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine with Baptist Health Care, connecting with coaches and student-athletes throughout the southeast. He approached this role with the same passion as coaching, ensuring access to the exceptional care at Andrews Institute.
Coach G’s career was known for taking on challenges, his fellow coaches marveled at his optimism. Even in the face of overwhelming odds, he would always say “we have a chance.” That optimism rubbed off on everyone around him and has impacted the life of his family and players, reminding them to never back down or give up on a worthy cause or a person.
Throughout his career, Coach G made a lasting impression on players, students, and coworkers alike, creating lasting friendships and several “additional” family members along the way. He and Mrs. G’s home was always open to anyone who needed a meal, a respite of hope during troubled times or just a laugh. His ultimate legacy is his representation of Jesus to all around him and influencing lives way beyond the field of play, undoubtedly continuing to influence numerous men and women and for generations to come. Coach G loved a Friday Night win as much as anyone but loved to see his former players as successful husbands and fathers even more.
Coach G’s greatest accomplishments were his unwavering love for his Savior, Jesus Christ, and his family. His devotion to his bride and the union and sanctity of marriage sets an example for all. His unconditional love for his kids and grandkids is a testament on how to live “the right way.” He would want nothing more than for his life to serve as a reflection of Christ, showing grace to all and service to others. Coach G was a member of New Beginnings Baptist Church, where he and his wife he worked with the youth and taught Sunday School for many years.
Coach G was born November 11, 1949, in the community of McDonalds Chapel in Birmingham, AL, the second of four children. He is preceded in death by his parents Thomas “Buddy” and Frances Gilliland, and his brothers Jimmy and Steve Gilliland. Coach G is survived by his beloved wife of 52 years, Kathy Gilliland, his sister Janet Jordan (Brent), two sons Chad (Lindsay) Gilliland, Brett (Amanda) Gilliland; daughter Tara (Kevin) Rollins. Coach G was passionate about his grandchildren: Reid (Dani) Gilliland, Cole Gilliland, Lily Gilliland, Kade Rollins, Luke Gilliland, Rece Gilliland, Knox Rollins, Ella Kate Gilliland and Kyle Creekmur.
Please join us in celebrating his life Saturday morning, March 4, 2023, 10:00 a.m., Myrtle Grove Baptist Church, 5920 Lillian Hwy, Pensacola, FL, followed by graveside ceremony at 11:30 a.m. at Pensacola Memorial Gardens, 7433 Pine Forest Road, Pensacola, FL. Visitation will be Friday, March 3, 2023, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., at Pensacola Memorial Gardens.
Coach G, along with his wife, have been devoted and passionate about many ministries. If you feel led to donate, we have included a list of those organizations close to his heart.
University of West Alabama Football – Football locker room
Fellowship of Christian Athletes –
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – Donation Link
Andrews Research and Education Foundation –
Pall Bearers:
Reid Gilliland, Kyle Creekmur, Cole Gilliland, Kade Rollins, Luke Gilliland, Rece Gilliland and Knox Rollins; Coach Mike Foster, Coach Harry Lees, Guy Snider and Allen Argenti
Honorary Pall Bearers:
The 1971 Livingston University National Championship Football Team; All players and coaches Coach G served with or coached in his career.

  1. George Wood says:

    What an amazing man and an amazing life. He has contributed to many people in many ways.

  2. Lana Stewart says:

    I have known Kathy and Ronnie since High School.
    I was a bridesmaid in their wedding. I have always thought they were such a great example of marriage and family.
    I know that Ronnie loved God and Family, He touched so many lives and guided so many in the right direction.
    Because of the life he lived his legacy will live on thru many and especially he left such a legacy to Kathy, his children and grandchildren. Truly Heaven rejoiced as Ronnie was welcomed in.

  3. Isolene Taylor says:

    I send my condolences to the family of Coach G. He was an amazing man. I remember the first time meeting him when my son Jarfri Taylor played quarterback at West Florida High School. He loved my child as if he was his son. I never worried about Jarfri on the field because I knew that he was in good hands. God has truly gained an Angel. We are continuing to pray for your family.

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