Coach, pastor, tornado survivor: Meet Oak Grove's Tom Hannah - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Coach, pastor, tornado survivor: Meet Oak Grove's Tom Hannah

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Tom Hannah circles up to pray with members of Oak Grove's basketball team. Source: WBRC video Tom Hannah circles up to pray with members of Oak Grove's basketball team. Source: WBRC video
JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) -

Athletic director. Football, basketball, fishing coach. Pastor. Tornado survivor.

"It's really all the same," said Oak Grove High School's head football coach Tom Hannah. "We're working for that common goal in sports. We're trying to get better and get wins. In church, we're trying to get better and get wins. Here in sports, the wins are tangible--they are fleeting and fading. And in church the wins might be intangible, but the rewards are forever. I just dress a little bit different at both places."

Since 2001, Coach Tom Hannah has performed 12 marriage ceremonies for students, three for his coaches and this year he baptized his first student-athlete. But on April 27, 2011, his whole world was rocked.

"It was a normal day. We had heard there was a chance of bad weather," Hannah said.

Then the tornado hit.

"The pressure was trying to pull the door out of my hand. It lasted six or seven seconds. Hard to believe that six or seven seconds will change your life like that, but it did. When I went around the wall there was nothing but sky. When I got outside I could just hear neighbors screaming for help. Some in debris, some with walls on them. When you lose everything and you walk away from over 40 years of your life and you've got it all in one garbage bag it's a little tough, but God had a purpose in everything," he said.

It was that experience that helped coach Hannah impact more lives down the road.

"Honestly, it just reaffirmed that there are a lot more things more important than winning and losing," Hannah said. "It's about how you respond. A leader is someone who exhibits strength, while at the same time caring. Young people will follow leadership."

And they have.

"When he coaches football he tells us this adversity here on like the football field, or maybe on the court or maybe in school or something like that, really doesn't compare to the things in life," said Oak Grove football player Andrew Praytor. "So, if we can survive in (our adversity) here it will teach us how to act and respond to (adversity) in the long run."

One of coach Hannah's former student-athletes even chose to follow in his footsteps--and now coaches beside him.

"He didn't have to help me," said Oak Grove assistant football coach, Kyle Hammonds. "It was something he chose to do and I greatly appreciate it. He's such a positive influence when you're coaching."

Coach Hannah's wife Valerie also couldn't help but sing his praises.

"He never seems to get tired as far as doing good," Valerie said. "I don't think I've ever heard him say, 'I just can't do that' or 'I'm just not going to go do that for that person.' He always finds a way to get it done. And he makes time for me too, which is nice."

When asked what kind of impact he hoped to have on his students, Coach Hannah responded, "I would want them to say that I was a positive leader and role model for them. And that I did my best to try to teach them life lessons because to me that's what it's all about."

Even in the midst of a storm, practicing what he preaches.

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