Kyle Wallace died Wednesday morning doing what he did best.
Wallace, 36, was leading a physical education class at Bentonia Gibbs Elementary, where he was already a hit with the students in a new school year when he collapsed in the gym.
Staff members attempted to resuscitate Wallace until emergency responders arrived and continued to try to save his life, but he was already gone.
The news was met with shock and sorrow in a community where Wallace coached at three different local schools and was loved by countless former players and students.
“I didn't believe the news at first,” said former Yazoo City High football coach Tony Woolfolk, who hired Wallace for his first coaching job. “A lot of people called me to ask be about it, but I didn't believe it. The school administrator called me, and that's when I finally realized it was true. I was in shock all day yesterday. I'm still in shock, to be honest.”
Gerald Peyton, who also coached with Wallace at Yazoo City High, said he immediately noticed that Wallace got along with everyone and treated everyone the same.
“This guy came to an all black high school to coach and fit right in with us,” Peyton said. “Even though he was the only white guy on the staff, we were all like brothers. He made sure those linemen worked hard, and he would push them every day. When I would cook for the coaches, he was always right there with us. I even went to support him when he left for Manchester.”
Wallace, a native of Mendenhall, began his coaching career in Yazoo City after playing football at Mississippi State University and for a year at Delta State. His arrival in Yazoo City was influenced by the fact that he fell in love with a Yazoo County girl named Jamie Hudson while at Delta State.
Wallace was quickly embraced in the Yazoo City School District.
“He was a great person,” Woolfolk said. “We were together for 13 years, and we never had any discrepancies. We were good colleagues, and we were better friends. We talked every day. If you needed anything, you would just holler at him, and he would be there.”
Philadelphia Eagles star Fletcher Cox has frequently credited Wallace as a strong role model during his time at Yazoo High.
“Coach Wallace made sure I was training every day, and he made sure that I was able to go to any camp I was invited to,” Cox said in a previous interview. “He kept pushing me and showing me how to be a leader.”
In 2014 Wallace accepted the position as head football coach at Manchester Academy, where he was named The Yazoo Herald Coach of the Year in his first season.
This year he began a new job at Bentonia Gibbs Elementary and was excited about being a member of the Yazoo County High School football coaching staff.
“I am loving it out here. It feels great to be in the Panther family,” Wallace said last week.
On the morning he died, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He was playing kickball with his students when he suffered an apparent heart attack.
Bentonia Gibbs had grief counselors available to help students cope with the loss.
On Thursday before the Yazoo City vs. Yazoo County football game, a prayer vigil and balloon release was held in Wallace’s honor. His wife, daughter Myla, and son Hamp participated in the service with Myla wearing a Yazoo County cheerleading outfit she had planned to wear while cheering for her father this season.
Wallace shared some words earlier this year after announcing to friends he accepted a position with the Yazoo County School District that indicated his faith in God prepared him for whatever was to come.
“I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me accepting this position, but if we knew everything He plans for us, we wouldn’t need faith. I’m not the best example of a Christian, I know, and we are all sinners. But I do know that when you put your troubles on Him and trust, He will not let his children fail. Then the stress and anxiety about what will come next is so much easier to deal with.”