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Upstate football legend's family in disbelief after 1977 championship ring found in Georgia

Woodruff HS football state championship ring from 1977 (FOX Carolina) Woodruff HS football state championship ring from 1977 (FOX Carolina)
WOODRUFF, SC (FOX Carolina) -

An Upstate family is still in disbelief after they say a Christmas miracle was delivered in the mail.

It may have arrived in a small envelope, but the 1977 football state championship ring is a whopping size 14. The man who once wore it is described as a Woodruff High School legend.

Longtime High School Football Coach W.L. “Willie” Varner is known for his 10 state titles, but his daughter said he was so much more than that. Before he passed away in 2009, she said the two of them would always bond while talking about football.

That’s why she was shocked when she got a phone call saying one of his state champ rings was found in an old car in Georgia.

With her feet on the field and the ring around her finger, Toni Sloan said there's no holding back the tears.

"I’m just thinking about the hard work and the hours that he spent out here," Sloan wept.

Countless hours and Sloan was there for most of them, sitting in the bleachers, proud to call the famous coach her dad.

"I remember growing up as a little girl and after Friday night games sitting around in my dad's home until the wee hours of the morning while everyone rehashed the game," Sloan said.

As she stared out at the field, she could still picture it all: the victories, the ten state titles and the players that grew to be family.

"Football was daddy's life,” Sloan said. “We used to say his blood flowed maroon and gold and every one of those players was like a son to him."

His spirit still felt in the Woodruff High School halls. Varner's legacy is hard to miss, he’ll be a Wolverine forever. His picture now hangs in the gym and the walls are covered with the teams that made it all the way.

"Legends never die,” Sloan said. “His work ethics and the great people that worked with him and the hours of devotions and dedication."

Sloan said each championship was special to her dad. That's why she was overcome with emotion when she got a call she's now describing as a Christmas miracle.

"I just couldn't believe it was real,” Sloan said. “It's just like a fairytale story."

A couple from Brunswick, Georgia was working on an old suburban, they'd had it for more than 13 years. They never knew there was a special keepsake sitting in the passenger door panel.

"A lot of people would have just chucked it to the side or took it in for pawning,” Sloan said.

That's not what the couple did, instead they called Woodruff High School, trying to track down the owner. Their only clue was the initials engraved inside. Eventually they talked to Sloan and sent the ring the Varner family never knew was missing.

"It's probably been the best Christmas present ever,” Sloan said. “The emotions have been quite a ride with remembering and sharing and all the folks that have reached out on Facebook in response to this, it’s so heartwarming."

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