A family’s coaching tradition brings two brothers to lead rival high school football teams
The White brothers, Laron and Kelvis, are a complete scope of personalities – passionate, loving, respectful and family oriented – but most of all, they are competitive.
“We both want to win, but I always want to beat my big brother and it’s been that way since we were growing up,” said Kelvis, 42, of his four-year older brother.
Laron is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Sparkman Senators in 2020 while Kelvis has taken the similar position in his first season for rival Bob Jones. The two schools have been heated rivals as long as locals can remember and with the fact this year’s battle scheduled for October 2 will pit the brothers head-to-head, look out for a family gathering.
“The last and only time we met in a game was in 2016 when I was head coach at Tanner and Kelvis was at Mae Jemison, some of our family sat on the home team side, while others switched sides at halftime,” said Laron who lost to his younger in that lone meeting.
The sons of Louis and Mollie White were born in Colbert County Hospital and grew up in the small community along highway 20 in Courtland where the west-east train cuts through town. Their father won four state titles during his 1975-1998 tenure as head coach of the Class 1A Chiefs. He is a member of the Alabama Hall of Fame and saw both of his sons play for him, play in college and become head coaches in their own rights.
Hearing the thunderous train at all hours of the day and night along with the sounds of Big Nance Creek, which was named after a Cherokee chief, also makes it treks through the small Lawrence County town, Laron and Kelvis were your typical young lads playing with friends and doing set chores at their home located on highway 33 on the outskirts of town among the country side and plentiful woods. They also had the honor of being the sons of a legendary coach of the local team where they accompanied him on most trips and hung out like shadows at both practices and games.
Their experiences easily influenced them to follow in their father’s footsteps while their mother was also an educator at the local school teaching first grade. Kelvis said he wanted to be part of what his father was doing with football and always wanted to grow up to be a member of the Courtland Chiefs.
“My father spent a lot of time with his players and heavily figured into molding their lives, but he didn’t put pressure on us although we spent a lot of time with him in the film room, cleaning up the field house and taking those bus rides with the teams,” said Kelvis.
Both brothers played heavily in the success of the teams at Courtland and signed with the Alabama Crimson Tide as lineman. Laron was head coach at Tanner High for 14 seasons where his teams made the state playoffs each year while winning two state titles and posted a record of 148-30. At Sparkman he is 19-13. Kelvis was head coach at Dothan High for eight years and Huntsville’s Mae Jemison for four seasons. His overall coaching record is 64-65.
The White brothers spend many hours together with their families as Laron and his wife, Kathy, have three sons, including senior Karon who has committed to sign with Appalachian State. Kelvis and his wife, Chris, have two children. Family gatherings are large and, yes, the subject of football comes up in conversation on many occasions.
“We bounce ideas off each other as we’re always trying to find a way to be successful so we share ideas as we mostly talk football culture,” said Kelvis.
“Our families are close. For many years Kelvis and I didn’t see each other except during the Christmas holiday,” said Laron. “Christmas is always a big time for our large family as we usually have four days straight of celebration.”
As the older brother, Laron seemed to always have his younger brother hanging around, but each of them had their own group of friends due to the difference in age. Kelvis was more outgoing and became a fan of Auburn University. When it was time for Kelvis to choose a college, his mother committed for him to join Laron at Alabama. “Yes, I became a converted Alabama fan,” admitted Kelvis. Once on campus Kelvis was a freshman and Laron a senior for the Crimson Tide. The one year in Tuscaloosa was the only time they were officially on the same team.
It’s not uncommon to see the brothers attending their brother’s children’s sporting events and their wives are good friends besides being sisters-in-law.
Growing up with parents who were prominent among the Courtland community, walking a fine line was always important for both Laron and Kelvis. The expectations were high and with success plentiful in the White home, the brothers became very competitive in their quests as head coaches and that spirit continues in 2020 and will come to a heighten frenzy this fall when the Bob Jones Patriots host the Sparkman Senators in what will be a heated rival contest between two schools- and two brothers.
“We’re brothers here to serve our players and I’m glad to do this alongside him,” said Laron. “We beat Bob Jones last year for the first time in a decade and the game should be a showcase type contest this season. I know Kelvis’ team will be ready. I’m proud of him.”