Tanks, 48, has been on a ventilator since having the stroke on July 25. According to the school’s athletic liaison Kathy Walton, Tanks was at home with his son when he had the stroke. His son drove him to a hospital in Henry County; he was later taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.
Tanks was hired as football coach at Southwest DeKalb High in 2013, replacing legendary coach Buck Godfrey. Tanks is a 1985 Southwest DeKalb graduate who played under Godfrey before going on to Florida State University, where he played center and was an Outland Award finalist— an award given to the best college football interior lineman.
After leaving Florida State, Tanks played for one season with the Birmingham Fire of the World League of American Football (WLAF) in 1991. The WLAF league played during the spring months, which allowed Tanks to volunteer as a coach during the fall at Southwest DeKalb.
After volunteering at Southwest DeKalb, Tanks became a coach at Tri-Cities High School in Fulton County and in the City Schools of Decatur before returning to Southwest DeKalb in 2007 as the offensive line coach.
Southwest DeKalb principal Dr. Thomas Glanton said Tanks was an integral part of the school.
“He was an awesome classroom teacher,” Glanton sad. “He has some of the best [Georgia Milestone End of Course] scores for U.S. History in our schools. He was very serious about his content and very serious about all of his students in his class meeting and exceeding standards.
“He was a full-scale support of the SWD program, he supported everything in every different organization,” Glanton added. “He was just a guiding light of support for our goals and mission of getting young people prepared to graduate and having options. And that extended to his football program. He was a dedicated professional who understood that football is just a means for some of these kids to engage in something constructive to help character, to help build a sense community and pride.”
After a 2-8 season in 2013, Tanks lead the Panthers to a winning record of 6-4 the following season. Last season, the Panthers had a disappointing season, finishing 4-6.
Glanton said an interim coach has yet to be named, but is going through the process to make a decision soon. Glanton said he and Tanks’ wife met with the team to share the news.
“We’re here to support them during this trying time,” he said. “Some alumni were there and the boys seem to be holding up well.”
Grief counselors will be on campus for students when school starts on Aug. 8.