When Brett Ringer joined Rock Hill High’s varsity football team as a player for his final two years of high school in the mid-1990s, Jim Ringer’s headset cord dropped to the ground and stayed there.
Nobody could keep up with the head football coach’s endless pacing during games, except his son, which meant tangled cords and people tripping and general chaos on the Bearcat sidelines.
“He never hung me up. I mean, he was great,” Ringer said recently. “Nobody could do it like Brett.”
Jim Ringer’s loving sidekick died in a horrific 2001 fireworks warehouse explosion in Chester. The blast at the packing warehouse was felt as far as 10 miles away and injured two other workers.
Brett Ringer was a summer seasonal worker for the company and the explosion occurred on his final day of work at the plant. He was beginning his pursuit of a Masters degree at Clemson the following week.
“We wanted to honor his memory with something worthwhile, by helping other kids,” said Jim Ringer, who retired in 2005 after winning 189 games and two state titles at Rock Hill High.
Brett was a top-level student, so a scholarship fund made sense. Six scholarships were given out the first three years but that number has ballooned to 16 annually, including two to the Clemson football program’s video department where Brett made a lasting impact. The golf tournament held in his name each summer has doled out over $100,000 in scholarship money, according to Jim Ringer.
This July will mark 17 years since Brett’s tragic passing, and most of the scholarship recipients these days wouldn’t know a thing about him. Here’s some important basics:
▪ Brett Ringer was such a hard worker that Clemson football established an award in his honor, given annually to the hardest working member of the program’s support staff.
“We always look for someone that has that work ethic,” said video coordinator Rick Bagby, who was close with Brett. “That’s always the No. 1 criteria.”
▪ Bagby remembered that Brett Ringer “could always make something work.” It was a different time for Clemson football in the late 1990s, with far less money trickling down to the video services department and its ancient equipment. Bagby usually has 15 to 20 students to help him each semester now, but only had three back then, including Ringer.
“He never just said, ‘well, I can’t do it.’ He never gave up,” said Bagby. “Coaches don’t care how you got from point A to B. All they care about was if you had a final product for them when they came off the football field, and he always had a way of figuring out something.”
▪ Social media didn’t exist when Ringer was at Clemson, but Bagby doubts that Brett would have been an active poster on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Brett Ringer was proof that leaders don’t have to be loud.
“He was very quiet. He was not a flashy person,” Bagby said. “He got along with everybody and that was a lot because of his work ethic and a lot because of his quiet leadership skills. He was a leader. There is no question.”
▪ Brett Ringer was a serious student. Jim Ringer said he stayed out of the scholarship selection process over the years because it was focused on academics, not athletic prowess. That Ringer hasn’t had to shoulder the weight of organization is a testament to the numerous people that put together a top-notch event each summer.
“It’s always a struggle,” the former coach said about the emotions the tournament drums up each summer. “It touches me that people still remember and support this thing.”
2017 Brett Ringer Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament
The 2017 Brett Ringer Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament gets underway June 15 at 9 a.m. at Pinetuck Golf Club in Rock Hill. Participation in the tournament costs $60 for individuals or $240 per team, with all proceeds going to the Brett Ringer Memorial Scholarship fund. Last year’s tournament raised over $11,000 to help pay for worthy students’ books.
There will also be a silent auction with a number of valuable items, including Clemson, Jadeveon Clowney and Stephon Gilmore-related memorabilia. Contact Walt Gainey at 803-984-2994 for more information.