Charlotte 49ers assistant football coach Phil Ratliff died at Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory, less than a week after he was hospitalized with a cardiac event.
Ratliff, who was the 49ers’ offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, was 44.
Ratliff came to Charlotte on Jan. 1, 2012, among the first hires made by 49ers coach Brad Lambert for his fledgling program. Under Ratliff, Charlotte’s offensive line excelled, paving the way for an attack that averaged 484.4 yards per game in 2014 and allowed just 12 sacks in 2014.
Ratliff liked to refer to the line as “the rock” of the team.
“We take pride in being the rock,” told the Observer in 2014. “We want that pressure on us. We want to feel it in our room, because the rock is coming out every single day and working hard.”
Ratliff was extremely popular with his players, hosting an annual pig-picking for them at his home in Harrisburg during the summer.
Born Nov. 12, 1970 in Louisa, Ky., Ratliff was a two-time All-American offensive lineman at Marshall and is in the school’s athletics hall of fame. He was captain of the Thundering Herd’s 1992 team that won the NCAA Division I-AA, now Football Championship Subdivision, national title.
“Phil brought intensity, integrity and some gamesmanship to our team,” said Michael Payton, the quarterback on those Marshall teams. “He was a fun guy, a great guy. He was one of those guys who was great to be around. You’d never say a bad thing about him.”
After graduating from Marshall, Ratliff spent one season as a graduate assistant at Marshall, then coached for 10 seasons at Lawrence County (Ky.) and Spring Valley (W.Va.) high schools.
Ratliff was an assistant for two seasons at James Madison, where he helped the Dukes win the 2004 FCS title.
He then returned to Marshall, where he coached tight ends from 2006-11. When Lambert was looking for an offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, he reached out to Ratliff. Lambert was an assistant coach at Marshall during Ratliff’s playing days there.
“He played for us at Marshall and was a very intense player,” Lambert said when he hired Ratliff. “He will bring that intensity to the offensive line. He’ll do a great job with the guys and will do a great job representing our university with his integrity and character.”
Ratliff molded players at Charlotte such as offensive guard Daniel Blitch, who was invited to the Carolina Panthers’ rookie mini-camp last spring. Lee Smith, who played for Ratliff at Marshall, is an Oakland Raiders tight end.
Ratliff was also energetic and persuasive in leading the 49ers’ recruiting efforts. Active on Twitter, he took pride in recruiting the Charlotte area well, one of the program’s primary goals.
“We want to make sure if there’s somebody in our back door that they’re not overlooked,” he told the Observer in February.
Ratliff is survived by his wife, Jenni, and children, Haley and Dylan.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Sunday.