Devastating Diagnosis for Friday Night Lights Coach
Gary Gaines diagnosed with Alzheimer's at 68
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2017 6:50 AM CDT
West Texas football coach Gary Gaines looks on as his team readies for a game in this 2009 file photo.   (AP Photo/Kevin Buehler)
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(Newser) – The legendary Texas high school football coach who put "Friday Night Lights" into the national lexicon faces his biggest challenge yet. Gary Gaines, 68, was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The Amarillo Globe-News reports the disease is in its early stages, and Gaines is not yet showing major symptoms. His family tells KFDA, "Gary is staying positive. There are very small noticeable changes. He is still traveling and working. He is doing well." Gaines and his family are helping organize a charity football game next month that hopes to raise $70,000 for Alzheimer's awareness.

"He will still be at the game and will serve as the guest coach," a local Alzheimer's Association rep tells the Globe-News. "He is aware of everything that is going on." The charismatic coach credited with leading the Odessa Permian Panthers to the state championship in 1989 was immortalized in the bestseller Friday Night Lights. He gained fame when Billy Bob Thornton played him in the movie of the same name; Kyle Chandler took over in the TV series that captured life in a pigskin-obsessed Texas town. In real life, Gaines went on coach and recruit for Texas Tech and Abilene Christian universities. He retired in 2012. (A new test can predict when a person may get Alzheimer's.)

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