The parents and husband of sports reporter Carley McCord are remembering her driving ambition in her career and her passion for inspiring others in the wake of her death in a plane crash last weekend.
Tracy and Karen McCord, along with Carley's husband, Steven Ensminger Jr., shared their memories of the sports reporter for NBC affiliate WDSU and in an exclusive interview with Sam Brock on TODAY Friday.
"She loved fiercely," Ensminger Jr. said through tears. "She loved so much. She had the biggest heart I've ever seen.”
McCord, 30, was one of five people who died on Dec. 28 when a private plane leaving Lafayette, Louisiana, and en route to Atlanta crashed less than a mile from the airport, where McCord's father-in-law, Steve Ensminger Sr., 61, was coaching the undefeated Louisiana State University team in the Peach Bowl.
The elder Ensminger found out from LSU head coach Ed Orgeron just hours before the game that his daughter-in-law had died. He coached the LSU offense through tears on Saturday night as Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow threw a record-setting seven touchdown passes in the first half of a 63-28 victory that sent the Tigers to the national title game against defending champion, the Clemson Tigers.
"I could see Carley telling him, 'Go coach, get out there,'" Ensminger Jr. said on TODAY. "Because she loved him."
Her parents remembered her constant drive to improve when it came to her career. She had previously worked as a digital media reporter for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and as the in-game host for the New Orleans Pelicans and the New Orleans Saints before joining WDSU.
"We were so proud of her," Tracy McCord said. "Every day and every year she wanted to reach a new high and a new personal best."
The Louisiana native also worked to inspire the next generation of reporters by sharing her story. Her family has started a scholarship in her name at her alma mater, Northwestern State University, to help female students who aspire to work in sports.
"She'd go to her high school, St. Michael's of the Archangel, and she would go and speak and say, 'Let me tell you how many times I was rejected,'" Karen McCord said.
A tribute was held for McCord at the Baton Rouge high school on Thursday night, and a memorial service will be held for her on Saturday afternoon.
Singer Andy Grammer also paid tribute to McCord on Instagram after finding out that his song "Keep Your Head Up" was one of her favorites. He sang a snippet from his pop hit in the video post and shared a message for McCord's family.
"I just opened Instagram to see that a sweet girl had passed in a plane crash," he wrote. "She was a fan and her last post in her story was a lyric to my song 'Keep your head up.' We are all so connected. @carleymccord Sending you love to wherever your soul has moved onto and sending your family tons of love. 'Only rainbows after rain...'"