For nearly 70 years and hundreds of Friday nights, there's been one constant under the lights in Decatur’s Eagle Stadium.

His name is Coy O'Neal, and he mans the Down Box.

"I just like football," O'Neal said, when asked why he's kept at it all these years.

O'Neal is now 83, but he's still quick on his feet. His lanky figure is unmistakable on the sidelines, as he keeps his eyes peeled on the ball and hustles to mark downs.

He started doing it back when he was a student in the 1950's. One Friday night, the head coach was short for his chain crew and called on Coy to step in.

"He ran the down box that night, and he's been doing it ever since," said Carey Williams, a friend of Coy's who also played for the Decatur Eagles when he was in high school.

Carey Williams
Carey Williams

"I've seen him get knocked down a time or two, but he jumps back up and lets 'em know he's okay," said Williams.

Generations of players and coaches have grown to love Coy, and so has an entire town. But he loves them just as much. Friends say one of his joys his giving out an annual $1,000 athletic scholarship.

He raises the money himself, selling foam Eagle claws to fans around town. He's a man of few words, but Coy is not shy about supporting his hometown team.

"Come on, let's go!" he said, explaining what he tells players on the sidelines.

But this Friday night, the town turned out to cheer for Coy, surprising him with a bronze tribute to his service.

It reads: "Coy O'Neal, Hometown Hero."

Coy O'Neal was honored with a plaque at Eagle Stadium
Coy O'Neal was honored with a plaque at Eagle Stadium

O'Neal says this is his 69th season on the sidelines, and he's not done yet.

"Seventy years is a mile marker for him," said Williams. "But if he's able, I can guarantee we won't be able to keep him off the sideline. He just loves it."