Greg McCrary, 61: Pro football player, high school coach, loving father

Former Atlanta Falcons tight end Greg McCrary knew the benefits of a successful football career, but he also believed in the value of a good education.

After his pro career, McCrary earned a masters’ degree in education so he could continue to teach the sport he loved. And in 2008 McCrary stopped coaching high school football so he could travel and support his two youngest children in their educational and extracurricular activities.

“He was such a family man,” said Medrith McCrary, his brother. “He wanted to do whatever he could to make sure his kids did well in and outside of school.”

Greg McCrary’s relationship with his children was something special, said James “Blood” Wilson, a longtime friend and former college roommate. After McCrary’s wife died in 2003 of injuries sustained in an automobile accident, his four children became his life.

“I’ve never seen a man love his kids the way he loved them,” Wilson said. “And Johnathon? That was his pride and joy. He couldn’t wait to see him play college ball.”

McCrary’s youngest child, Johnathon McCrary, a standout quarterback at Cedar Grove High School, enrolled early at Vanderbilt in January.

“He was ready to travel with Johnathon, and his daughter Leah, who is a singer and senior at the University of Georgia,” Medrith McCrary said of his brother. “He was so proud of all four of his kids and he was really looking forward to the next chapter in all of their lives.”

Gregory McCrary Sr. of Stone Mountain died Tuesday after experiencing a massive heart attack April 6. He was 61. A funeral is planned for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Greenforest Community Baptist Church, Decatur. Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Home, South DeKalb Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.

McCrary, who grew up in Griffin, started coaching and teaching in the 1980s. He served as an assistant coach at Rockdale County High and Forest Park High before getting his first head coaching position at Druid Hills High School. His last coaching job was as an assistant at Cedar Grove. At the time of his death, he was a physical education teacher at Harper Elementary in Clayton County.

McCrary played football at Clark College, now Clark Atlanta University, before becoming a fifth-round NFL draft pick in 1975 and catching on with the Falcons. He had the option of playing professional baseball, but his heart was deeply rooted in football, his brother said.

“Both of his sons played football,” Medrith McCrary said. “They couldn’t help it, it was naturally in them. And Greg loved talking about the game with them.”

Wilson said his old roommate “knew the game inside and out.”

“Along with his love for working with younger kids, all of that made him a great coach,” Wilson said. “I don’t really know what else to say about him, other than he left us way too soon. Way too soon.”

Additional survivors include a daughter, Monica Appling of Clayton County; a son, Gregory McCrary Jr. of Lithonia; his mother, Lillian McCrary of Griffin; sisters Gloria Robinson of Miami and Rozalyn Todd of Henry County; and brothers John McCrary Jr. of Griffin and Phil McCrary Sr. of Lithonia.

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