Cleveland High Coach John Jacobs, 49

Cleveland High is mourning the loss of Coach John Wilson Jacobs who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 49.

Coach Jacobs was Cleveland High School’s head varsity and JV boys basketball coach, JV basketball and baseball coach, and an assistant football coach.  He passed away at his home.

According to his obituary, Jacobs was diagnosed last year with melanoma on the bottom of his foot. The skin cancer had gone undetected for more than a year and had spread to other parts of his body. However, he still taught class when school started and still coached JV football on Thursday’s and varsity on Friday’s for the first five weeks of this season.

“This is a huge loss for our entire county,” Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow stated.  “John Jacobs has been a powerful influence in our students’ lives through athletics and academics. He represents the success that we want for all of our children and our hearts and prayers are with his family and our Cleveland High School family.”

Jacobs grew up in the Cleveland community and was an excellent four-sport athlete at Smithfield-Selma. He was named to the All-State and Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas football teams and chose UNC over Georgia and Duke. He also excelled in the classroom and was a Morehead Scholarship nominee at UNC.

At UNC, he blocked a punt against N.C. State in 1987 that was returned for a touchdown to win the game.

He was a businessman out of college, owning a convenience store for 8 years in Chapel Hill, but his love for kids spurred him into becoming a teacher. Jacobs taught for 16 years – nine at Princeton and seven at Cleveland.  His 2014-15 boys basketball team at Cleveland went 23-4.

A Celebration of Life service will be conducted at 2:00pm Sunday, October 29th in the Cleveland High School Gymnasium at 1892 Polenta Road, Clayton. The family will receive friends from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Wednesday evening, October 25th at Parrish Funeral Home in Selma.

He is survived by his wife, Amy, of 27 years and sons Ben, Austin and Zach.



  1. In addition to his already admirable legacy as a father, teacher, and coach, it will be truly momentous if his untimely passing can raise awareness of the importance of a yearly body check by a dermatologist. His harmless looking mole was in fact deadly melanoma. The disease is often found too late because its victims are young and healthy, just like Coach Jacobs.

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