HAMMONTON - The first parking spot next to the high school football practice field is reserved for the head coach.

But that's also where the Hammonton players could find Jack Rehmann during every practice.

Rehmann was always there, watching the team and showing his support for the Blue Devils.

"He was there every day and we would look for him," senior running back Jordan Brown said this week.

Rehmann was there during summer practices and even on rainy fall days.

But then, earlier this season, the car -and Rehmann - stopped showing up for practice. The players noticed the absence.

"It was really surprising," Brown said. "We didn't know what happened when we didn't see his car for a little while."

Coaches eventually broke the news to the team - Rehmann, the man sitting in the coach's parking spot at every practice, died on Oct. 7. He was 76 years old.

The entire locker room went silent when the team heard the news, Brown said. While many of the current players didn't know him well, Rehmann was a staple at football practices and games.

The players and coaches miss him.

"He was our No. 1 fan," Hammonton coach Pete Lancetta said. "Not seeing him at practice has been weird. The kids all knew who he was. You won't go to many places and find a person like him."

Rehmann's presence will be felt Saturday, when Hammonton, the No. 2 seed, goes for the South Jersey Group III title against Timber Creek, the No. 1 seed, at Rowan University at 4 p.m. Hammonton (9-2) is No. 7 in The Press Elite 11, while Timber Creek (11-0) is No. 2.

The Hammonton players will be wearing a No. 13 sticker on the back of their helmets - Rehmann's jersey number in high school.

The school has honored Rehmann in other ways this season. The day of Rehmann's funeral, the hearse carrying his body came by the school and took a lap around the track while the football players stood in the bleachers.

During this season's home games, the school painted the 13-yard-line blue instead of white. A plaque was hung on the press box commemorating one of the school's greatest fans - and athletes.

The 1952 graduate excelled in football, baseball and basketball. He played football for the semi-pro football teams the Hammonton Bakers and Peaches.

In 1988, he had his number retired at Hammonton High School and was inducted into the high school's Hall of Fame.

According to his longtime wife Barbara Rehmann, Jack loved going to all high school games, no matter the sport - including softball, wrestling and basketball.

"It was always part of his life," said Barbara, 69. "He supported every sport. When my daughter was in the band, he went and supported them wherever they were."

Barbara and Jack separated many years ago, but still remained close, even living next door to each other. Jack lived with their daughter Jill Rehmann and her family in Hammonton.

"We still remained friends," said Barbara, who loved to talk to Jack about the Philadelphia Phillies. "When he got sick, I helped as much as I could. We were always good friends."

The day of Jack's funeral, his family heard stories that they've never heard before.

About half a dozen former athletes spoke about how Rehmann helped them. He created an exercise and basketball area at the warehouse at Whitehall Labs in Hammonton where he worked.

Barbara said that one of the athletes he helped couldn't afford basketball sneakers, so Rehmann bought him a pair.

He even requested that instead of flowers at his funeral, people send money to a Hammonton athletic organization to help promote the values of sports.

"He was low key," Barbara said. "He did a lot of things people didn't know about."

Contact Susan Lulgjuraj:

609-272-7187