Jeffrey Lisby came to Tuscaloosa to change his life, to leave his school-teaching days behind, earn a degree in journalism from his beloved University of Alabama, and become a sportswriter. He was successful in most of that. He didn't earn the degree, because he didn't need to. He impressed us so much with his reporting ability that Lynne and I hired him at ‘BAMA Magazine, where he was associate editor and ran our Internet site.
One other thing he didn't do in Tuscaloosa was keep his name. I blamed him for that. He first "appeared" to me and others on the internet as "Jay" or "BamaJay." When we met in person on the Alabama football practice field, he didn't correct me from calling him Jay. By the time I realized that was not really his name, or even his nickname, it was as I told him too late. I couldn't unlearn Jay and learn Jeffrey. And so hundreds and hundreds of Alabama fans knew him only as "Jay."
He told me that he did not want to be an old school teacher. At the time neither of us suspected that he would not grow old. I did tell him from experience that being an old sportswriter was no bargain, either.
Jeffrey may have been a big old teddy bear in some respects, but Jay Lisby was almost a curmudgeon. Not a mean person, by any means, but a very serious person. While I take my job seriously, I recognize that what we do is attempt to provide entertainment, amusement, enjoyment for sports fans. From time-to-time I make light of that job. Jay was quick to rein me in. He'd give me a hard stare and a "Well, yeah, I know what you're saying, but..." I heard that a lot.
He wanted me to accept this terrible fate that fell to him. He accepted it. I never could. I couldn't talk to his brother, Greg, who approached me sometime ago about participating when this day came. I was and am honored, but I couldn't talk about it. I couldn't talk to Jay about things he wanted done...particularly when he wanted to talk to me about his replacement. Incidentally, he suggested -- and Jay's "suggestions" didn't leave much wiggle room -- but he suggested I hire a young man named Mitch Dobbs, which I have done, and who is here today as a friend and colleague of Jay Lisby.
When Jay was leaving Tuscaloosa for the last time, we had a chance to talk for awhile. I told him there was no way I could ever thank him for all he had meant to us. And he thanked me for giving him a second life. And two grown men cried together, trying to hide it from each other, and I hoped against hope he would have a third life.
And he does. I know where Jay Lisby is. By any standard he was a very good man who lived by a code, shaped by his family and his religion a very personal religion. By sportswriter standards he was a saint.
I'm one of those who believes Coach Bryant is in that same place. He wouldn't have made it as easily as Jay did, but I believe he is there. And I believe that he has already had to answer to Jay, who never saw a story he didn't want to get.
My task today was to present my friend as a sportswriter. But what I really represent is the sports readers, Jay Lisby's readers. Friends he didn't even know hundreds of them filled page after page on our website, tributes to Jay and condolences to his family. Some say they were lucky enough to know Jay, to have met him in person. Most didn't, and know that was their loss. They have favorite stories or posts he wrote, and they have remembered them and shared them.
I feel fortunate to have had a friend like Jay Lisby. And believe me, I always thought of him as a friend more than as a co-worker. I came to know his family, and to know them is to understand the goodness of Jay,
I know Jay would not have wanted us to grieve, but that is not possible. We grieve for a life cut short and for a family that has suffered too much with this ultimate heartbreak. But I also believe Jay Lisby enjoyed what he did. And he made life for others so much more enjoyable.
We will miss him and we will not forget him.