Coaches who jumped from Georgia high schools for college: Remember Erk? Cronic is the latest

Danny Cronic, who won 222 games in 30 seasons as a Georgia high school coach, took a new job this year as the first head coach for Reinhardt University in Waleska in his native Cherokee County.

It’s unusual for Georgia high school head coaches to take college jobs, although perhaps Cronic – best known for his state contenders at LaGrange and East Coweta – is part of a trend.

In 2005, Shorter University in Rome hired Phil Jones to start its football program. Jones was a head coach for 25 years in Georgia, where he had a 159-107-4 record at Winder-Barrow, Dooly County, Fitzgerald and Jeff Davis, although he had been in college coaching for a time, including at Georgia (1997-2001), before getting the Shorter job.

Here are 11 other notable Georgia high school head coaches who took college jobs:

*Billy Atkins, the head coach of Troy State’s NAIA national championship team of 1968, was head coach of Jordan of Columbus in 1965, the year before taking the Troy job. Atkins is perhaps better known as an AFL and NFL player who was the MVP of Auburn’s 1957 national championship team.

*Ken Cooper, the Ole Miss head coach who led upsets of SEC champion Georgia in 1976 and national champion Notre Dame in 1977, was head coach at Turner County from 1959 to 1961. He was a former Georgia player who left Turner County and became an assistant under Johnny Griffith and Vince Dooley.

*Bill Fulcher, Georgia Tech’s head coach in 1972 and 1973, was head coach of Screven County (1960-61), alma mater Richmond Academy (1962) and Waynesboro (1964-65). He was head coach of the University of Tampa in 1971 before getting the call to return to Tech.

*Frank Jones, head coach at the University of Richmond from 1966 to 1973, was head coach at Decatur from 1951 to 1956 and Cordele from 1949 to 1950. A native of Tifton, Jones led Richmond to two Tangerine Bowls.

*David Kelly, coach of Dunwoody’s 1993 state championship team, jumped to college ball the next season, getting an assistant’s job with Ray Goff at Georgia. Kelly has been an assistant at Central Florida since 2006.

*Bobby Pate had been 72-13 in eight seasons as a high school coach at Toccoa, Norcross and Cherokee when he took the job of starting West Georgia’s football program in 1981. A year later, he had won the NCAA Division III national title. He remained at West Georgia for four seasons, then returned to high schools at Hart County, hwere he’d post three 10-win seasons and reach the semifinals in 1989.

*Erk Russell, who built Georgia Southern’s program and won national titles in 1985, 1986 and 1989, was head coach of Grady in Atlanta from 1952 to 1957 and won the state title in Class AA (Georgia’s largest at the time) in 1953. Russell also is widely known as Georgia’s defensive coordinator for its 1980 national championship team.

*Red Sanders, the college hall of fame coach who led UCLA to a national title in 1954, was head coach of Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville from 1934 to 1937. Sanders was the originator of the phrase, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” Vince Lombardi borrowed it and usually got the credit.

*Steve Shankweiler, coach of Redan’s 1979 state champion, when Kevin Butler kicked the winning field goal against Marist, jumped into college coaching the next year. He is now line coach for South Florida. He returned to high schools for three seasons at Glynn Academy and Griffin in the mid-1990s.

*Buddy Nix, the current general manager of the Buffalo Bills and the head coach of UT-Chattanooga from 1985 to 1992, was head coach at Jonesboro in 1967 and 1968.

*Charlie Waller, who won state titles at Decatur High in 1949 and 1950, took a job the next season as an assistant to Shug Jordan at Auburn. Waller later became an NFL assistant and ultimately head coach of the San Diego Chargers in 1969 and 1970.

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13 comments Add your comment

Homer Adams

August 9th, 2011
10:46 am

Weyman Sellers, who coached at Athens, Clarke-Central, and Jonesboro, was offered the UGA before Dooley. He turned it down.

DeKalb Alumb

August 9th, 2011
11:48 am

You are forgetting Steve Davenport, former head coach at Redan (1999-2002 and Decatur 2002-04) who is now the head coach at Savannah State. Davenport led Redan to the playoffs in 2000 and Decatur to the Georgia Dome in 2003. He was hired at SSU in January after coaching at University of Alabama-Birmingham. Davenport,who played at Tech, also holds DeKalb County receiving record for most catches in a season.

Todd Holcomb

August 9th, 2011
1:15 pm

Homer – Interesting trivia. Didn’t know that.

DeKalb Alumb – Thanks for that info. Someone else also e-mailed me about Davenport. He was OC on SWD’s state c’ship team. That was a pretty good offense.


August 9th, 2011
3:22 pm

Rance Gillespie qualify? Won back-to-back titles at Peach County, then jumped to Georgia Southern in 2007 to be Chris Hatcher’s offensive coordinator. Eagles averaged almost 37 pts. a game his first season. When Hatcher was axed three years later, Gillespie took over storied Valdosta High, going 11-2 his first season and making ‘em smile again in South Georgia.

Ice Man

August 9th, 2011
7:39 pm

Thamas Coleman the head football coach in the early 60’s at Jonesboro and for several years in the late 60’s and early 70’s at old Sequoyah High school in Doraville.

Ice Man

August 9th, 2011
7:50 pm

Thamas Coleman was the head football coach at Jonesboro in the early 60’s and at the old Sequoyah High School in Doraville in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He left high school coaching to join Ken Cooper’s staff at Mississippi in 1973. He then went on to spend 21 years as a coach at Southern Mississippi. He was inducted into the Southern Mississippi Hall of Fame several years ago.


August 10th, 2011
7:24 pm

My old buddy Mike Hodges left Thomasville High in the capable hands of George Bobo to take a job at Ga Southern.

87 Granger

August 12th, 2011
8:42 am

Cronic has done this before. He left LaGrange for a job as an assistant at West Georgia. He’s an excellent coach.


August 12th, 2011
1:04 pm

Blogs like this are extremely interesting. There is a lot of interesting and tidbits that many are not aware of as it relates to GA HS sports.


August 12th, 2011
3:48 pm

What about Chip Lindsey? He made a short yet impressive jump to Troy after two unforgettable years at Lassiter


August 12th, 2011
4:45 pm

Matt Moore who once coached at Pickens County and North Gwinnett has been the O-Line coach at Texas Tech for several years now.


August 13th, 2011
9:29 am

Frank Jones took Presbyterian College to the Tangerine Bowl. Bobby Pate was a star on that PC team, as was Bobby Waters, who went on the play for the 49ers.

Texas Dawg

August 15th, 2011
4:55 pm

Rance Gillespie went from Peach Co to Ga Southern, not as a head coach but the article just says from High school to college…not High School to Head Coach in college. Ranch and I use to play football up in Rabun Co matter fact another guy I use to play football with in Rabun is Head Coach at Flowery Branch, Lee Shaw. Both seem to be pretty dang good High School Football coaches. Wish em all the success in the world both damn good men.