For the first time in a long time, a Walker won’t be leading the Sandy Creek Patriots out onto the field next football season, but it will be a familiar face. Brett Garvin, a longtime assistant with program, has been chosen as the next head coach to lead the Patriots back to the promised land.
“It feels good,” said Garvin. “I’m grateful. I’m honored. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming.”
The Walkers have certainly left their mark on the program, but the time has come for a new day with Chip leaving in early February to take the head job at Newnan. Chip Walker had been the head coach since 2005, and his father, Rodney, was at the helm before that dating back to 1999. As the Patriots have been molded into a perennial state power, Garvin has been a key figure on the defensive side of the coaching staff. Having just finished his sixteenth year at the school, he’s been a key cog in the highest of the highs, including three state titles, and he relishes the opportunity to not just continue the success but build on it further.
“It’s a unique situation. We’ve had a lot of success in the past, and turning over the keys to somebody shows a lot of trust,” said Garvin, who thanked Principal Robert Hunter and athletic director Richard Smith for their support through the hiring process. “Chip set the bar really high when he was here. It’s going to be a labor of love. He’s done an awesome job as a head coach, and no one will ever question that. Now, the goal for me is to surpass him and do even better.”
Garvin brings a wealth of experience with him to the head job. Growing up in South Carolina and playing ball at Greenwood High, he fell in love with the game early.
“I love the sport. To me, it’s the be all and end all in sports,” said Garvin. “You’ve got 11 guys, and there’s 11 guys on the other side. It’s symbolic of war. It’s a war of attrition, and whoever’s got that little leather pigskin, that’s the guy.”
He went on to play at Presbyterian College, then moved on to start coaching at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky. Connections he made early have been important to the rest of his life.
“It’s an interesting journey,” he said. “As you talk to people, you realize that it’s a much smaller world than you think it is.”
He first met the Walkers very early on. When he was a graduate assistant at Union, they played Tusculum College. And who was Tusculum’s quarterback at the time? Chip Walker. Garvin first met Chip’s father, Rodney, during that period, and would circle back around later. While at Union, he recruited players from Thomasville High School, and, when his time as a grad assistant was up, that was where he headed. Eddy Householder had just left Thomasville, but one of his good friends, Ron Harvin, was still there. Harvin would leave for Cochran, with Householder joining him. A year later, Garvin followed them both. A couple of steps later, when Householder followed Rodney to Sandy Creek, Garvin soon joined up. From there, it’s been a long stay for Garvin, not a common occurrence for high school coaches.
“That seems to be the trend,” he said of coaches continually moving around. “It’s unusual to stay at one school for so long.”
Tyrone quickly became home for the Garvin family, and that’s why they stayed. Sandy Creek has embraced the Garvins, including Brett and Jo’s two sons. Older son Cole compiled a 39-2-1 record as a starting quarterback for the Patriots, including a state championship. He is now part of the program at South Alabama. Younger son Till is a rising junior tight end for Sandy Creek.
The wait to see if Brett would be the new head coach was stressful on the family, but it was worth the wait.
“Our county did an awesome job with the process, but it’s stressful with the waiting and worrying,” said Brett. “It was hard. You have to be patient. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be. They’re super stoked now.”
Garvin is a rarity among football coaches. He’s got a Doctorate, so you know the cerebral side of the game appeals to him.
“I like the scheming part. I really enjoy Sundays,” he said of the day that focuses on breaking down film and building the next game plan. “Being a history guy, I can see two generals scheming.”
The wins are incredibly important, but, for Garvin, true victory means much more.
“The education part of it is the most important part of it. There is no question about that,” he said. “We want to make sure they learn how to balance and juggle that. When you get older, there are a lot of balls in the air at one time, and you’ve got to stay focused.”
Garvin wants all Patriots to keep winning long after they have hung up their helmets.
“You hope you’re touching people’s lives. That’s what you do it for,” he added. “We play football, and we’re having a good time, but at the end of the day were training these kids to be fathers, brothers, and husbands and to survive and provide for their families in the business world and the real world. They’ve got to be able to go out into the world and be leaders.”
The Patriots will have a new general leading the way when the take the field to kick off the 2017 football season, but they will exit the field the same way. They will leave as victors.