The Legacy of Coach Michael Acey Ensor

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

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By C.Y. Peters

In the heart of Carter County, where the whispers of legends echo through the rolling hills, Coach Michael Acey Ensor’s name stands tall, carved into the chronicles of high school sports history. He wasn’t just a coach; he was the embodiment of dedication, resilience, and unwavering commitment to the teams he led. As the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) sought to unite schools through athletics, Ensor emerged as a beacon of inspiration for the Rangers of Unaka High School.


Acey’s journey commenced long before he ever stepped onto the coaching pedestal. Raised amidst the rich sporting tapestry of Carter County, he imbibed the essence of sportsmanship from mentors and luminaries of the 1960s and 1970s. Their teachings echoed a simple yet profound ethos: the path to victory lay in hard work, unity, and dedication to the team’s cause.


His effectiveness as a player was unparalleled; a three-time all Smoky Mountain Conference player whose athletic feats garnered admiration and acclaim. Be it his .380 batting average in baseball or the touchdowns he scored with flair on the football field, Acey was a symbol of excellence and grit. Yet, it was his reverence for teamwork and dedication that set him apart.


Transitioning from a remarkable playing career to the coaching arena seemed almost predestined for Ensor. His tenure as the helmsman for Unaka’s baseball team became the stuff of local legends. Over 500 career wins, a testament to his strategic acumen and the ability to instill in his players the essence of camaraderie and excellence.


Not confined to baseball, Acey’s coaching valor extended to football, where his leadership guided the Rangers to the precipice of greatness. The echoes of his achievements reverberated far beyond mere statistics – they were tales of resilience, determination, and unwavering spirit.


Ensor record-tying season of 9-2, Ensor’s playing acumen propelled the team to heights unseen since the 1950s. His coaching ability was recognized with the Super 22 Coach of the Year accolade, a testament to his transformative impact on the gridiron.


However, it wasn’t just the victories that defined Acey Ensor’s legacy; it was his unwavering spirit in the face of adversity. When the state games relocated to Memphis, many coaches balked, but not Ensor. His resolute stance defined his commitment to the greater good of Unaka. The baseball team might not have clinched victory on those Memphis visits, but his determination to see his team compete at the highest level spoke volumes about his character.


Beyond the trophies and titles, Acey Ensor’s coaching philosophy was rooted in mentorship and camaraderie. He stood as a guiding light for his players, imparting not just the skills of the game but also life lessons that transcended the sporting arena. His coaching style mirrored that of his revered mentor, Johnny Honeycutt – a blend of hard work and fun, with a deep understanding that while the game demanded dedication, moments of joy and camaraderie were equally essential.


 From his early days as a volunteer to his tenure as an assistant and head coach, Ensor’s unwavering dedication to Unaka High School reflected his profound love for the community and the sport. His departure left an indelible void that echoed through the halls of the school.


Today, the name Michael “Acey” Ensor remains engraved in the memories of Carter County’s sporting enthusiasts. His legacy isn’t merely defined by wins and losses but by the lives he touched, the values he instilled, and the spirit of sportsmanship that continues to inspire generations.


Coach Ensor’s voice reverberates through the valley, a reminder of a man whose legacy transcends the boundaries of time – a coach, a mentor, and a true sporting legend of Carter County.


Michael Acey Ensor was inducted into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.