Peachtree Ridge quartet learning how to live up to NFL namesakes

DiAndre Atwater, son of Denver Broncos' legend Steve Atwater, is a starting running back for Peachtree Ridge High School.

DiAndre Atwater, son of Denver Broncos' legend Steve Atwater, is a starting running back for Peachtree Ridge High School. (Special photo)

I’m heading over to Suwanee to call tonight’s game between Roswell and Peachtree Ridge and, like me, you may recognize a few of the names on the Peachtree Ridge roster.

Among the Lions’ players are junior running back DiAndre Atwater, junior cornerback Ray Buchanan Jr., sophomore wide receiver Joe Horn Jr. and sophomore tight end/linebacker Tony “J.R.” Jones Jr.

If their names ring a bell, that’s because all of their fathers played — and starred — in the NFL.

This is nothing new for the relatively young football program at Peachtree Ridge. The school is located not far from the exclusive gated community of Sugarloaf Country Club, where numerous current and former professional athletes reside. So it would follow that some of their children would attend the local public school.

The Lions had Drew Butler, the son of former Chicago Bears’ kicker Kevin Butler, kicking for them a few years back. He’s now an all-star punter for the Georgia Bulldogs. And about the same time there was Cameron Heyward, who is now playing defensive line for Ohio State. You may have heard of his dad, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward.

Obviously, there are advantages to this for Peachtree Ridge, which is already one of the largest schools in the state (fifth actually). It would make sense that sons and daughters of pro athletes would inherit some of their athletic ability.

But coach Bill Ballard says it’s not always an advantage for these kids.

“I think it’s hard on them,” he said. “The expectations are naturally pretty high, especially when a guy is very, very good like Steve Atwater was. The first thing college coaches ask me, ‘Does he hit like his father?’ That’s a lot to live up to. Just because their dad’s are good athletes doesn’t necessarily mean their mama was. So it can be a lot on them.”

For the most part, it looks like these four players inherited the football-playing gene from their dads.

#27 DiAndre Atwater: The son of the greatest NFL defensive backs of all time, Steve “The Assassin” Atwater, Diandre starts a “T-back” for the Lions and is expected to be one of their most productive offensive players. He had 13 carries for 77 yards and a TD in the season-opening win over McEachern. Brother Steve Atwater Jr. starred for Peachtree Ridge as a senior last year and is now at Georgetown. Dad was a two-time All-American at Arkansas and an eight-time Pro Bowl selection with the Denver Broncos and N.Y. Jets.

#3 Ray Buchanan Jr. The son of “Big Play” Ray Buchanan of Falcons, Colts and Raiders’ game, “Little Ray” was slated to start at cornerback but missed the opener with an injury suffered in preseason camp. “A great cover guy” — of course — according to Coach Ballard, he has been cleared to play and should see action tonight.

#14 Joe Horn Jr.: Just a sophomore, he hasn’t had a chance to show stuff yet. But word is he is very reminscent of his father of the same name, a 1,000-yard-a-season receiver for several years with the New Orleans Saints and, later, the Falcons. Possibly the most upside to the whole group. Cousin Darian Horn also is a sophomore wideout for the Lions.

#88 J.R. Jones: Father Tony Jones was a Pro Bowl offensive tackle and won two Super Bowl rings with the Denver Broncos. J.R., as family and friends call him, is just a 10th grader and plays as a reserve at outside linebacker and tight end.

First and foremost, Ballard said, “all those kids without exception are very good kids.”

So how do they feel about sharing the last names of NFL legends? I asked young Atwater, a national honor society student with a 4.0 GPA.

“It’s tough but, at the same time, I know any time I need help my dad will be there for me,” he said. “It’s more rewarding than anything.”

Atwater said Dad is more than happy to share his expertise — whether he wants it or not.

“He’s not at that many practices,” said the 5-foot-9, 195-pound back. “He comes to every game, though. And he remembers every play somehow. He has something to say about every one.”

You can be sure, these kids are listening.

Peachtree Ridge and Roswell, the two Class AAAAA powers, will be squaring off in the Channel 2 WSB-TV Sports Zone Game of the Week. Watch it live at 7:30 p.m. on WSB’s sister cable station, RTV (Charter Ch. 127, Comcast 248) or catch the replay at 1 a.m. Saturday on Channel 2.

Roswell leads the series 1-0-1. The teams’ tied for the 2006 Class AAAAA state championship, which ultimately led to the GHSA’s tiebreaker rules.

32 comments Add your comment

The Sham

September 3rd, 2010
1:09 pm

You mean “Give Up The Big Play Ray”!

Nice walk down’ memory lane!


Bail Bonds R Us

September 3rd, 2010
1:19 pm

UGA’s 2010 recruiting “Dream Team” = Future Customers


September 3rd, 2010
1:21 pm

Matthews Dawg

September 3rd, 2010
1:48 pm

Bail Bonds r Us….you are a fat head!

Matthews Dawg

September 3rd, 2010
1:48 pm


September 3rd, 2010
2:50 pm

lets go lions show da hornets who da real champs are!!!!


September 3rd, 2010
3:03 pm

the hornets will take care of business. roswell by 14. peachtree will be real good in a year or two. everyone in the n fulton area wants to beat roswell, and they just reload every year. on a different note, i wish the carver columbus -buford game was on the tv tonight. crowell will get his. two top teams squaring off…


September 3rd, 2010
3:26 pm

The best football player over there and one of the best in the State but for some strange reason doesn’t play football is Corey Heywood middle son of Ironhead. He is a beast but only plays basketball which he is good and will have a chance to play LOW D-1 but trust me the kid plays football he is a first round draft pick.

Bail Bonds R Us

September 3rd, 2010
3:26 pm

Matthews Dawg: YOU are the fathead, quit crying.


September 3rd, 2010
3:36 pm

Yeah Matthews Dawg. Bail Bonds R Us can’t help it that he has had such a boring life. He can’t help it that the worst he has ever done is download an MP3 . Just to let you know toy r us considers using r us as copyright infringement and they will come after you. Since you are so perfect and boring I just thought I would let you know.


September 3rd, 2010
3:37 pm

Come to UGA.

Da Ridge

September 3rd, 2010
3:45 pm

Not to mention Sophmore TB/LB Ryan Graddy. His cousin Sam Graddy (Tennessee Volunteers) played WR for LA Raiders and Denver Broncos.


September 3rd, 2010
3:55 pm

How is it they are living here when most of the fathers never lived or played here ? Maybe just something happened one weekend when they were here playing the Falcons.

Red Panty Lover

September 3rd, 2010
5:00 pm

Kent Rollins for Player of the year!!


September 3rd, 2010
5:01 pm

buchanan calling himself “big play ray” doesn’t change the fact that other teams and falcons fans knew him as “giving up the big play ray”.


September 3rd, 2010
5:16 pm

Lions by 17 tonight! QB Billy Best will show he is learning the offense. And the Botts boys will dominate on defense. I love Sugarloaf CC. When are they bringing the PGA tour back to the Loaf?


September 3rd, 2010
7:53 pm

I liked Ray Buchanan. Joe Horn on the other hand, lost my respect when he supported Mike Vick on the Monday night game versus the Saints. Vick WAS guilty!!

Good luck to all of their sons! I look forward to seeing how the year plays out for them.


September 3rd, 2010
8:45 pm

Yes! get ready for THE USC Gamecocks to pummell the average GA dawgs
next weekend. The Cocks are hot and GA is going to LOSE BIG
im thinking USC 38 GA 13. That lil freshman QB GA has is going to be
shaking when the Cocks get ready at gametime!


September 3rd, 2010
10:03 pm

Rome Dawg,
I agree with you about Joe Horn. Liked him until he backed Michael Vick for killing defenseless dogs.


September 3rd, 2010
11:23 pm

who looks the best in red panties?


September 4th, 2010
3:45 am

blackbee…if Heyward is in your estimation, a “low Div1″ player, how can he be first round draft possible. That just makes no sense.

THUGA Justice

September 4th, 2010
8:23 am

These guys don’t qualify for THUGA … they don’t have a police record


September 4th, 2010
9:52 am

Well, where do I start.

If he goes to thuga, is his rap sheet clean?

Tech looking better everyday.

CPJ, ALL THE WAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Da Ridge

September 4th, 2010
10:21 am

Wow, I forgot about Mike Vick’s nephew at Peachtree Ridge. Aamad Harris got a TD last night in the Lion’s win against Roswell…Lots of potential NFL talent at the Ridge….


September 5th, 2010
9:33 am

And what ever became of the pathetic, punk ‘Yellow Fuzz’ ??


September 5th, 2010
9:53 am

I hope these boys take it e-z on little ol’ Newnan this Friday night.


September 5th, 2010
10:43 am

Well, where do I start.

One question I have, can he pay for a scooter helmet if he were to enroll in Cowtown??



September 5th, 2010
1:41 pm

hung knee lo

September 5th, 2010
5:41 pm

yellow fuzz, wher you at boy.


September 8th, 2010
5:48 pm

Wonder why my son was left out. He is the grandson of Kansas City Safety and the cousin of one of GA top running backs that played for GA Tech and later the Buffalo bills. He starts as a Sophomore for Peachtree Ridge at Nose Guard. Wish the guy would have done his homework better.


September 11th, 2010
6:27 pm

Joe horn Jr. And Tony Jones Jr of peachtree ridge going to Mr peachtree ridge next year watch out for them because they’re going to pro


September 11th, 2010
6:31 pm

Why people stills got something to say about Michael vick check ur self out like u all perfect