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Pushed to retirement by mild heart attack, former Texas high school football coach releases book; meets long-lost brother

Ronnie Gage led Lewisville to a pair of state championships in 1993 and 1996.
Credit: Ronnie Gage

LEWISVILLE, Texas — Lewisville football head coach Michael Odle is inching closer to the start of his fourth year at the helm.

"I'm in a place that I'm passionate about, that I love," said the Farmers coach and athletic director.

Lewisville football hasn't won the state championship since the 1990s, when the Farmers won it all in '93 and '96.

Odle knows what it takes to get there. In '93, he was a freshman traveling with the team.

In '96, he was the starting quarterback when the Farmers won the title game— without throwing a single pass.

"I'm an old school guy, but I'm very proud of that," chuckled former Lewisville head coach Ronnie Gage. "Will probably never happen again."

Gage coached high school football in Texas for 43 years and was the head coach for the Farmers' two football state championships—  the only two in school history.

In 2018, Gage retired, albeit, reluctantly.

He suffered a mild heart attack, which required a quadruple bypass surgery. While he yearned to be on the sidelines during the fall, Gage took the experience as a sign to start a new chapter.

"But, I miss it," he  admitted. "I'd be lying if I didn't. Honestly, if my health hadn't turned a corner on me there for awhile, I'd probably coach until I was 100."

Retirement has afforded Gage more time with family, including his children, grandchildren and family members he had never met before.

In the fall of 2018, Gage and his beloved wife, Stephanie, took a trip to South Carolina.

For the first time in his life, he met Billy Gage— his 91-year-old half-brother.

Ronnie and Billy shared the same father, who passed away when Ronnie was a young teenager.

"The first time we met, we looked at each other and both cried," he recalled.

You could write a book about Ronnie Gage's life, but he already has.

"The Life Coach: Small-Town Lessons on Faith, Family and Football" was released in November 2019.

The book idea was inspired by Tom Thompson—  one of Gage's former players at D-III Austin College.

On Nov. 14, 2009, Thompson, then 61 years old, became the oldest player in NCAA history when he made a PAT vs. Trinity University.

"There's a lot of lessons in there along the way," Gage said of the book.

Ronnie and Stephanie now live in his hometown of Decatur, Texas, but he still keeps tabs on the Farmers and his former state champion quarterback.

"Absolutely no doubt, I wouldn't be sitting in the chair without Coach Gage," Odle explained. "His leadership. His mentorship. His tough love. There's always a little bit of him with me when I'm here."

Lewisville starts the 2020 season on Friday, Sept. 25 against Rockwall Heath.