South Florida’s high school football coaching fraternity lost one of its members Tuesday.
The Miami Sports Tribune learned and confirmed that longtime Miami Carol City High School assistant football coach Andre Stafford passed away Tuesday at the age of 43.
Affectionately known as “Coach Dre”, Stafford – who also served as the school’s Dean of Discipline, girls’ flag football coach and wrestling coach in addition to his role as associate head football coach – suffered a series of strokes over the past two weeks and passed away in a local hospital Tuesday afternoon due to heart failure.
Stafford’s twin sister, Andrea Stafford, called her brother “unique”.
“Andre was unique. My brother was very unique,” she said. “He loved his family and he was crazy about football.”
“It’s a big loss to the family. It’s really hard.”
The news of Stafford’s passing not only hit the family hard but the entire South Florida community.
Rip to 🏈 lcoach Andre Stafford 🙏🏽 #chiefpride 4Life
— Yung Rénzél 👑 (@RickRoss) June 19, 2018
The South Florida HS coaching fraternity has lost a good brother. Prayers, positive thoughts and condolences to the family & friends of Coach Andre Stafford. He was one of the engines that powered @CarolCitySr1 athletics and exemplified #ChiefPride. #ZUUNATION 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/5mKSypFkzp
— J.T. Wilcox (@JTWilcoxSports) June 19, 2018
The Chief family sends it's deepest condolences to the family of Coach Andre "Dre" Stafford @coachdre3. He was the epitome of what it means to be a Chief! Your legacy will forever live on in the halls of Chief Country! We🧡You! #ChiefPride pic.twitter.com/rXiDEBSSYq
— Miami Carol City Sr (@CarolCitySr1) June 19, 2018
Carol City athletic director Xavier McCray called Stafford an icon.
“Coach Dre was an icon in the Carol City community,” said McCray, a high school teammate of Stafford’s.
“He’s an ‘Old Chief’ – meaning he’s from the old building…and the old building had a lot of tradition. Having Coach Stafford here was like bringing something from the old building to the new building. He would always make the kids understand Carol City tradition – ‘this is Carol City, I am Carol City’.”
“Every school needs that type of person and Coach Dre was that person for us,” McCray said.
Stafford was a fixture at Carol City for more than two decades.
A 1992 graduate, Stafford played football for the Chiefs under legendary head coach Walt Frazier. He joined Frazier’s coaching staff in 1996 and worked under Frazier through 2007, when Frazier retired.
Even through multiple head coaching changes since – from Harold Barnwell, to Aubrey Hill, and to current head coach Benedict Hyppolite – Stafford always seemed to maintain the role of “right-hand man” to the head coach.
“He was the constant figure at Carol City,” McCray said. “Whenever new people came to the school, they would all go see Stafford. He took pride in running the team out the tunnel and the kids responded to him because he represented everything Carol City.”
While football was his calling card, Stafford’s fingerprints were on the entire Carol City athletic program.
He coached girls flag football and wrestling, but also worked the scorer’s table during home basketball games and was the school’s unofficial social media coordinator – as he routinely shared graphics, videos, and photos promoting Carol City’s student-athletes.
Coming to your city near you! @TouchMoney6_ @Touchmoney_11 @Ray8Malcolm @JTWilcoxSports @larryblustein @doc_d12 @B0SSMAN_5 @4way_tat @HarveyMartin89 @CoachDub305 @CoachGMoss @mikejones10 @J_TAYLOR94 @CoachA_Hill @FOOTBALLVILLETV #JOINTHETRIBE pic.twitter.com/02gyLPqqRd
— Coach Dre ☝ (@coachdre3) June 3, 2018
— Coach Dre ☝ (@coachdre3) June 3, 2018
Hill, also a Carol City alum who led the program to a state championship in 2016 before joining Florida International University’s coaching staff, made a tribute to Stafford Tuesday night via social media.
Hyppolite expressed similar sentiments Wednesday.
“Coach Dre made a huge impact on me as a mentor,” Hyppolite said in a phone interview. “He showed me how to do things the Carol City way. He made sure that whoever came understood the Carol City tradition. He knew the ins and outs of everything in Carol City and he had everyone’s respect.
“I remember the first day I got the job, he introduced himself to me and was by my side every day since then. The spirit of Carol City lived in Andre Stafford. You look up Carol City in the dictionary, Andre’s picture should be there,” Hyppolite added.
“I’m just thankful that I had the opportunity to work with him. He was the icon of Carol City.”
Stafford is survived by a son, D’Andre Stafford, who is a junior wide receiver on Carol City’s football team and plays basketball for the Chiefs. Hyppolite said that Stafford’s son plans on playing the 2018 season and that he and the entire team is dedicating the year to Stafford.
Hyppolite also confirmed that award-winning rap artist and Carol City alumnus Rick Ross personally called the family to express his condolences.
The impact of Stafford’s passing stretches far beyond any playing field though.
Carol City students – current and former – also took to social media to express their grief, send condolences, and reminisce about the impact Stafford had on their lives.
RIP Coach Dre🕊 it’s crazy cause you started that 5 back thang now I’m official back n you not here to witness greatness.God had other plans I’ma handle business naturally just watch over me spiritually.I swear ima getchu that State/National Title. Love Coach❤️ #FunTimes pic.twitter.com/bENptMLYf0
— NW5️⃣ (@B0SSMAN_5) June 19, 2018
Sleep in peace big homie thanks for everything coach Dre love you 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/8AHvaJvgFz
— Choc Gray (@Godschild__choc) June 19, 2018
McCray said Stafford had an impact on students because they sensed how much he cared for them.
“Kids gravitated towards him because he loved them, he always tried to reach the kids,” McCray said of Stafford. “Instead of just admonishing a kid for doing something wrong, he would reach out – talk to them, talk to their family – and do whatever he could to keep them from getting in trouble again.”
“Coaches like Andre Stafford need to be appreciated. He meant so much…people can come and go, but Coach Stafford – that’s Carol City.”
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time, but the Stafford family confirmed that a memorial for Coach Andre Stafford will be held Friday at Carol City High School.