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Column: A fitting tribute for 'Doc'

If he were paid by the hour, Ben McLane would have racked up a pretty penny.

If he were paid for every ankle he taped at Brookwood between 1987 and 2006, he would have been even richer.

But the 76-year-old - known by many Bronco players over the years as "Doc" - was never paid for his duties at the Snellville school. He never asked to be. His countless hours of working as an athletic trainer, up until his retirement earlier this year, were always on a volunteer basis.

"(McLane) is just one of those special people you meet in your life, where there's not a selfish bone in his body," Brookwood head football coach Mark Crews said.

"All he's done has been as a volunteer, all his time and efforts. He's helped four generations of kids. How do you put a price tag on that?"

The elder McLane did so much to help Brookwood athletes that the school felt compelled to honor him at last Friday's North Gwinnett game by naming the training room the Ben "Doc" McLane Training Room.

The home crowd offered a huge, appreciative round of applause that echoed through Brookwood Community Stadium, particularly when McLane, who is battling cancer, stood up out of his wheelchair to offer a wave toward the stands.

"He was the first guy to ever tape my ankles," said Brookwood assistant coach David Nelson, who played for the Broncos in the 1980s. "He's just been a fantastic leader. We really miss him not being around here."

What people might not realize is that McLane is a legend at two places. A former medic in the Navy who made his living in the funeral home business, he also volunteered as the trainer at Henderson High School (now a middle school) for 20 years, and had the baseball and athletic fields there named in his honor.

The Birmingham, Ala., native worked hard on top of a demanding job with what is now Lowndes and McLane Funeral Home in Tucker. He, along with his wife Joan, made it a point to be there for families during their trying times, occasionally cutting meals, family vacations and solid nights of sleep short if they were needed by a grieving family.

Still, he never skipped out on his duties at either high school.

"Oh Lord, I can't even describe how proud I am of him," said Brookwood assistant football coach Benjie McLane, McLane's son. "I'm tearing up just talking about it. I'm probably not worthy of his name."

But through his son and grandsons, the McLane name will still be on the sidelines at Brookwood. It wasn't unusual to see three generations of McLanes on the field when Benjie, his father and Benjie's two sons, both ball boys, were all parts of the Friday night game.

One key member of that family is now retired, but "Doc" isn't forgotten. Not by a long shot.

"People just appreciate how much (McLane) cares about kids; that's his legacy," longtime Brookwood football coach and athletic director Dave Hunter said. "He's such a good person. He cared for kids here with his heart and his skills." Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.