Turner Ashby football coach Chris Fraser has unexpectedly died at the age of 59, according to school officials.
“Thanks to everyone who has helped Coach Fraser throughout the years,” Knights athletic director Donnie Coleman wrote in a statement. “Coach helped lead the team to a Valley District Championship this past season, the first one in twenty years. He has been a great mentor to the student athletes at Turner Ashby High School. Please keep Coach Fraser, the Turner Ashby community and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Fraser has served as the Knights leader on the gridiron for the past five seasons, taking over for Charlie Newman in 2017 after previously serving as the coach at Maury in Norfolk for six seasons.
After back-to-back two-win seasons to start his career at Turner Ashby, Fraser began a turnaround.
The Knights went 6-4 in 2019, falling to Liberty Christian Academy 22-16 in the Region 3C quarterfinals. That postseason appearance marked the first since 2016 for the Knights.
In the shortened 2021 spring season under COVID-19 guidelines, TA went 5-1 with its lone loss coming to Rockbridge County in the regular-season finale. That setback gave the Wildcats the Valley District championship and kept the Knights out of the four-team condensed postseason that year.
This past season, however, TA battled through an up-and-down year to finish 6-4 in the regular season and won its first district title since 2001. The Knights fell to Broadway in the opening round of the regional playoffs.
“I will always remember his willingness to help anyone out in any way he could,” said Spotswood coach Dale Shifflett. “He had a huge heart and loved being around kids and fellow coaches.”
A graduate of Lake Braddock in Fairfax County, Fraser served as an assistant there, as well as at W.T. Woodson and Courtland, before becoming Jamestown’s first football coach in 1997. Four years later, he began a six-year tenure at Smithfield, where he went 23-9 over the last three seasons after a 4-26 record through the first three. He went 5-25 as Charlottesville’s coach from 2008-10, and made three playoff appearances at Maury with a 22-42 record over six seasons.
During his time coaching at Smithfield, Fraser was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. In April of 2019, fresh off his second season at TA, he told the Daily News-Record he was looking for an active kidney donor after his function levels had reached a critical level of below 20 percent. This past year, Fraser finally found a match and underwent a transplant months before the season.
“The thought that at any moment U.Va. could call and say they have a match — that kind of keeps me going,” Fraser told the DN-R that year. “I know I have some time. When I first found out, It bothered me back then, but it’s just my normal now. As long as I take my medication and work out and stay healthy, I’m OK. I’m not doing this alone. I have great doctors, great people out there looking after me. I’ve coached in a lot of places and met a lot of people. I’ve received so many messages with good thoughts. It only takes one person. For me, that’s pretty good odds.”