Heart transplant a win for Coach Gene

Wewahitchka’s assistant football coach Gene Rollins has been waiting on a heart transplant in Gainesville for over a year now, but the wait is finally over.

On Sunday, June 27, Rollins got a brand-new heart.

Coach Gene said he wasn’t going to miss another football season with the Gators as last year he was in the hospital watching their games.

Now he won’t have to, as he’s on the road to recovery after his surgery. His wife, Tonya Rollins, said she was shocked to see how quickly he has bounced back after the procedure.
“Them waking him up, taking the breathing tube out as fast as they did, him getting up and moving as fast as he is, and walking fast. I know you saw the video so he’s walking fast, I thought he was gonna run me over getting through the hallways,” Tonya said.

The entire community has been supporting Coach Gene, raising funds for him since he first went to Shands Hospital on June 9, 2020 and were all excited to hear the news this week.

However, Wewahitchka head football coach Bobby Johns and the rest of his squad were extra elated to know Coach Gene was coming back.

Gene even sent the team a little message after his surgery.

“If I can get up three days after surgery and start walking, then all’s of y’all can get off your butts and get your butt in gear and get ready to play football ‘cause Coach Gene is coming back stronger and better than ever,” Gene said.

Although he has about five more weeks of recovery in the hospital and more to go after that, he can’t wait to get back on the sidelines with the team this season.

There was some debate over whether he would actually be on the sidelines or in the press box, but Coach Gene said he knows where he will be.

“I didn’t get a new heart to get put in the box so I got to sit there and get fat and chubby and the new heart get wore out ‘cause I’m overweight. My tail is gonna be on the sideline doing what I’m supposed to do,” Gene said.

As Coach Gene puts it, he’s in the end zone now, but the game isn’t over just yet. However, with the support of the community, his team and family, he will get through the rest of the recovery process too.

“For him to be with the boys, for him to be with our new grandson who’s at home now, and get to have life again outside the four walls,” Tonya said.

The Wewahitchka community is still fundraising for Coach Gene and his family, as they will still have expenses from traveling back and forth to Gainesville for check-ups over the next year.

Panhandle Nutrition has created a “Mean Gene” Tea to raise funds for them and there is also a GoFundMe set up as well.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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