Wartime injury, family bond motivates Jack Britt football team
Posted November 20, 2012
Brian Rimpf was hired as the head coach at Jack Britt High School this summer after Richard Bailey left the school for Scotland County High School.
The Raleigh native played high school football at Leesville Road, college football at East Carolina, and went on to play in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens. Rimpf had been an assistant coach at Leesville Road High School and Harnett Central High School before going to Jack Britt, and there were doubts about the team early on.
"Everybody was doubting us in the beginning," Jack Britt linebacker Dylan Clayton said.
Over the course of the season the Buccaneers erased all doubt though. Rimpf has his team just one win away from the state championship.
"Fayetteville is a military town, and really the only connection to the military I have was my brother," Rimpf said.
Nathan Rimpf, a Raleigh native, is an Army Ranger who also played high school football at Leesville Road. When Brian was hired as the football coach at Jack Britt, Nathan was deployed to Afghanistan.
On July 8, Nathan was leading his platoon through a passage in the Anbar Province. The routine trip would change his life forever.
"I had been down here about a month getting to the know the guys and starting to get to know the coaches, and we got a call," said Brian.
Nathan Rimpf had been injured in an explosion, losing both legs. Suddenly, Brian had to leave his new team to be with his brother.
"The players on the team were very understanding of the situation," Brian said. "There's a lot of military here in Fayetteville, a lot of kids have parents in the military so they knew exactly what I was going through and what was happening."
Nathan, who has gone through rehab at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., was awarded the Purple Heart. He now has two prosthetic legs that allow him to get around, including making the trip to some Jack Britt football games.
"It's pretty cool, it makes you want to work a lot harder just thinking about how you're just playing game," said Clayton. "He's coming out to your game and he can't even get around really, and he just wants to come watch you play."
This week, Brian Rimpf will lead his Jack Britt team into the 4-AA Eastern Regional Final on Friday against Garner.
The Rimpf family has connections of their own to Garner. Meredith Clayton, the chorus teacher at Garner High School, is friends with Brian's wife. After Nathan's accident, the Rimpf family had wristbands made in his honor, and Garner graduate and country music singer Scotty McCreery sent a picture of him wearing the wristband.
On Friday, Nathan Rimpf will head to Garner's Trojan Stadium to watch his brother's team take on the Trojans, hoping for a chance to see Jack Britt in the state championship next week.