Those who knew Bill Schmitz say he was more than a high school coach, he was a mentor and role model for hundreds of young athletes. Now many of them are struggling to understand why he took his own life.
"He was a special person who was really -- you read on the blogs and a lot of different things, there's a lot of kids he touched over the years, and that's what coaching is all about," says Joe Wessel, who was a friend of Schmitz.
In 2003, Schmitz worked as the head coach at Jesuit, where he led the Tigers to the class 3-A region final.
More recently, he was a popular track coach and social studies teacher at Land O' Lakes High School.
Deputies say Schmitz drove to the center of the Sunshine Skyway bridge just before 5 a.m. Monday and jumped to his death.
"We're very saddened to hear about Coach Schmitz. The school is devastated. Students were sad. Teachers were sad. Players were sad. The principal is heartbroken." says Linda Cobbe, spokeswoman for Pasco County Schools.
School officials at Land O' Lakes High told the students about his death today. Grief counselors were there to help too.
"They had the football team and track players in and told them separately. They had the crisis counselors there to answer questions and to sort of draw them out because in the beginning, it was just silence," Cobbe said.
Students are now remembering him as someone who knew how to bring out the best in people. Now, they're left with questions and the one person who can answer them is gone.
"Bill was that guy. He was that kind of a person. He coached baseball, track, he could coach it all and taught history. He was a very special person. It's just real sad that it came to that type of an ending." says Wessel.
Grief counselors will be back at Land O' Lakes High School tomorrow to help students and teachers. He leaves behind a wife and two grown children. He was 59 years old.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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