CLAYTON – In 2016, Cleveland High Coach John Jacobs was diagnosed with melanoma. The skin cancer had gone undetected for more than a year.
Coach Jacobs was Cleveland High School’s head varsity and JV boys basketball coach, JV basketball and baseball coach, and an assistant football coach. Despite the cancer diagnosis, Jacobs still taught classes and coached JV football on Thursday’s and varsity on Friday nights. He coached the first five weeks of the 2017 football season until he passed away at his home in October 2017 at the age of 49.
Jacobs impact at Cleveland High is still felt to this day. That’s why the Cleveland High School Booster Club, Parent Advisory Council and Principal Jenna Sauls requested the Johnston County School Board rename the football stadium John Jacobs Stadium. The board received the request in January, and following a 60 day waiting period, approved the request at their March meeting.
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 Carolina’s football teams and chose the UNC Tarheels 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.
Coach Jacobs is survived by his wife, Amy, of 27 years and sons Ben, Austin and Zach. Mr. Jacobs was able to have coached all three of his sons – Ben when he was a senior at Princeton and Austin and Zach at Cleveland.