When Chris Leone rolled into a major sporting event, people took notice.
"It was incredible. Everybody knew Chris," longtime friend Shawn Delaney recalled.
"Players, team owners, actors — they all came over and greeted him by name," Delaney said. "Everybody you can imagine. Reggie Jackson, Don Shula, [the late Oakland Raiders owner] Al Davis...."
Leone, who grew up in Key Largo and graduated from Coral Shores High School in 1987, died Jan. 8 near Knoxville, Tennessee., where he moved to be near family. He was 45.
Leone used his wheelchair to stay on the go. He was afflicted with muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that severely weakens muscles, nearly all his life.
He was an ardent supporter of Coral Shores sports programs and served as an inspiration to hundreds of Hurricane athletes, Coral Shores Athletic Director Rich Russell said.
"Chris made a lasting impact on everybody who came into contact with him," Russell said. "He was the personification of resilience and toughness.
"When you talk about being able to overcome adversity," Russell said, "there was no better role model for our athletes than Coach Leone."
Leone broadcast sports highlights on local radio, and wrote sports stories for the Upper Keys Reporter and the Miami Herald.
He attended his first NFL Super Bowl in 1971 and did not miss another for decades.
"World Series games, NBA championships, hockey championships -- he was there," Delaney said. "For any Miami team, from the University of Miami or the Miami Dolphins, he was their No. 1 fan."
The Delaney brothers, Fran and Shawn, stayed close to Leone for "for many years of fun-filled adventures," said Shawn, who named his daughter Jessica Christine in Leone's honor.
"Chris was an inspiration to our whole family and so many others. He touched lives all over the country," Delaney said.
Plans are being made for an Upper Keys memorial celebration of Chris Leone's life, possibly in March.
"We want people who knew Chris from the Keys to be able to make the trip back," Delaney said. "There's going to be a lot of people there."