Michael Tanks, a first-team All-American at Florida State in 1989 who returned to his Georgia roots to coach his high school alma mater, has died.
Tanks, the head football coach at Southwest DeKalb (Decatur, Ga.) and a 1985 SWD graduate, was at home when he suffered a stroke and had been listed in critical condition and on a ventilator at Grady Hospital, according to reports.
He died Wednesday, a day before his 49th birthday. Tanks was married with two children, including a son, Michael II, a senior defensive back and punter at Southwest DeKalb.
SW Dekalb High Athletic Director Kathy Walton said the school is “devastated” by Tanks’ death.
“He was extremely well-loved by everyone here,” Walton said Thursday. “The first impression with him was he was so genuine. He was so easy to get along with and he really cared about the kids and the parents. It’s very devastating because it was so unexpected. And he may have had his best team this season.”
Tanks played defensive line and tight end at SWD, helping the team to an undefeated season in 1984.
Following a redshirt season in 1985 at Florida State, Tanks was moved from linebacker to offensive line.
The 6-foot-1, 250-pounder developed into a key contributor for the Seminoles as a four-year letterman and two-year starter at center.
Tanks enjoyed a breakout senior season, calling the line sets and earning All-America status. He also was an Outland Trophy finalist, given to college football’s top interior lineman.
Tanks signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks but did not make the team.
After an attempt at a pro career, he returned home and to coaching. He was also the head coach at Decatur in 2005 and ’06 before becoming the head coach at Southwest DeKalb in 2013.
The team began practice Monday. An interim coach has not been named.
“He was one of my closest friends, I considered him my brother,” said former FSU teammate and NFL player Dedrick Dodge, who resides in Atlanta. “The way it happened and how it happened so fast, you feel like you were just talking to someone and then they are not here. That’s why it’s important for everybody, if you love somebody, tell them. You see how valuable life is and how short it can be.”
Contributing: Tallahassee Democrat