Four Questions with retired coach Billy Henderson
This week, our Four Questions feature is being answered by some of Georgia’s best-known retired coaches. We continue today with Billy Henderson, 88, who was a head coach for 35 seasons at Willingham (1958-69) in his hometown of Macon and Clarke Central (1973-95) in Athens. His Clarke Central teams won state titles in 1977, 1979 and 1985. His career record was 285-107-16.
1. What is the most memorable game you’ve been a part of as a player or coach? “I guess it would be my first college game when I dressed out and went in to Sanford Stadium, 18 years old, a freshman, ‘Here I am a Georgia Bulldog.’ I was playing behind probably the greatest player of all-time, Charley Trippi. In 1946, the only time he came out of the game was when I gave him some relief. I was his backup. [Georgia beat Clemson 35-12 in that game, went 11-0 and won the Sugar Bowl.]
“As a coach when I was in Macon, beating Valdosta for the first time was a big occasion for us. [Willingham would beat Valdosta three straight times – 1963-65, the last of which evoked another memorable game from Henderson.] I can tell you a story about that. My family every morning had a devotional at 6:30. Everybody had to participate. We had whipped Valdosta [which was 7-0 and on its way to a fourth state title that decade], and the next week we went to Jordan. They had lost five games. They whipped us. So when it came to my daughter, who I called my severest critic, she said, ‘Daddy, how did you get so dumb in one week?’ That stayed with me forever. I said, ‘Honey, I don’t know.’ I learned a big lesson. When you win a big game, you’d better practice differently the next week.”
2. Which high school coach would you want your son to play for, and why? “Without question, it would be a young coach from my staff, now coaching at Grayson, Steve Brooks. He’s an ex-marine. He leads by example. He is just the epitome of what a coach should be. My coach in high school had a big influence on me. The worst thing that came out of his mouth was ‘golly doodle.’ You knew he was mad then. That was John ‘Stooge’ Davis. He influenced me not just as a football player but as a man.” [Brooks’ wife is Henderson’s daughter, Carol. Brooks was Henderson’s successor at Clarke Central.]
3. What is your pet peeve as a coach or favorite saying/motto? “‘It Can Be Done’ and ‘We Lead.’ Those were Lanier’s two themes. It was on a wall in the school hall. I remember walking up those steps when I was 13. I couldn’t wait to go to Lanier because all those guys were my heroes. In big letters, I saw ‘It can be done’ and ‘We lead.’ We adopted that at Clarke Central.”
4. Which GHSA policy or high school football rule would you most like to see changed? “I never gave any thought to that when I was coaching. Just tell me the rules, and we’ll go by them.”
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