MONROE CITY, Mo.
David Kirby didn't feel like a stranger to Monroe City for very long.
Jamar White was the reason why.
When Kirby arrived to town as the Panthers football coach prior to the 2013 season, White welcomed him to the small Northeast Missouri town with open arms. When it came to meeting Kirby's now-wife, Amanda, he welcomed her the same way.
“The first time he met her, she went to shake his hand,” said Kirby, who had White as an assistant on his coaching staff. “He was like, 'Nah, we're family. We hug.'”
That's how White viewed the people he cared about. They weren't friends to him. They were family.
So when the news broke on social media that White died in a car crash Saturday night at age 42, everyone that knew him felt like they lost a family member rather than just a friend.
“Once you were in his circle, you were 100 percent all in all the time,” said Cody Leonard, the Monroe City athletic director and girls basketball coach, who White was an assistant under. “He loved you unconditionally.”
The same love he had for the players he coached, his fellow coaches and former teammates from his days playing football at Monroe City was felt across social media throughout the rest of the weekend. Current and former players White coached flooded social media with their favorite stories and photos of him. Every single one mentioned the impact White had on their lives.
That same love he shared with them is being expressed for White's wife Michelle, who is in critical condition as a result of the crash. White is survived by his four children DeShaun, Taytum, Pierce and Knoxx.
A graduate of Monroe City and 1994 state football champion with the Panthers, White had seen the top levels of athletics at the school. He wanted that more than anything for the players he coached, and instilled the confidence in them they were the best players on the football field or the basketball court.
“He just had this confidence and really tried to get the kids to see how good they were,” Kirby said. “He tried to build up their confidence, and he just had a way of saying something to spark them. He just always pushed people to be better than what they thought they could be.”
And that wasn't just at Monroe City, either. He wanted everyone to succeed.
“I don't know how many times I'd see him go up to a kid from another team after the game or a tournament and go pump them up,” Leonard said. “That was just the person he was. He always believed in the kids he was involved with probably more than the kids believed in themselves. He always told them to just be you.”
White's infectious personality made his players gravitate to him. He was nearly always the first one to give a player a fist pump or high-five when they came to the sidelines, and it was the same with a hug after a big victory.
“He loved seeing the kids succeed,” Kirby said. “His whole focus was the kids. The kids knew that he was real. He just made sure the kids were having the best experience they could have.”
He was also the first one to crack a joke.
“He 100 percent knew when it was time to lighten the mood or when it was time to turn up the heat,” Leonard said. “We were talking with the girls basketball team the other day and we told stories about how if someone was having a bad day at practice and he's always trying to get you to smile. Then he'd also be the same guy to try and get under your skin to get those competitive juices going.”
That got the players to be the best they could be, even away from sports.
“He just had a love for kids and was a loving father, husband and friend,” Kirby said. “You'll see that birth date and the date of passing on the tombstone,” Kirby said. “That dash in the middle of those numbers is really what means everything. He died way too young, but in the time he was a part of this program, he impacted hundreds of lives. You can't put a number on how many people he truly touched.”