Thanks Tommy!

December 15, 2013

I’m sure that most people around here know that Tommy Watson will not be the head football coach at Upson-Lee High School next season. I am told that Tommy resigned from his position just a few days after the end of the 2013 season.

My purpose here is not to discuss or pass judgment on Coach Watson’s resignation or to disparage anyone who felt that his resignation was necessary. My purpose is to say that I think that Tommy did a good job during his tenure at Upson-Lee.

OK, I’ll put it out there first. Tommy’s record over his six years as the head coach of the Knights was 23-38 with only one state playoff appearance. I know what that looks like and I will say that I am one who wishes that the record had been better. I expect that Tommy wishes the same thing.

As stat keeper for the Knights, I missed only a couple of those 61 games that Tommy coached. There were nights when I was disappointed in the results and in our team’s performance. I am sure that I was not nearly as disappointed as Coach Watson and his coaching staff.

I have spoken with Coach Watson in his office on several occasions and he has shared with me some thoughts on the coaching demands at Upson-Lee and his approach to those demands and expectations. I will not share those thoughts here, but just let me say that Coach Watson had a clear knowledge of what was expected of him and had a definite plan to be successful. Obviously not everything fell into place for him and his teams, but don’t be so blind as to call him a failure. He accomplished a great deal!

He demanded that his players perform well in the classroom and in the community before they got a chance to perform on the football field. There were many athletes walking the halls of Upson-Lee High School that could have made a significant contribution to the success of the football program, but they would not meet the disciplinary and academic standards set by Coach Watson. He refused to lower his standards. It probably cost him some wins. It may have cost him his job!

Coach Watson felt that he had other players who could fill the void and one of the main things that he believed so deeply in was making sure that his players did things the right way and left his program with an education and a knowledge of how to succeed after their high school years. I’m sure that there are many of his former players who will say that he succeeded.

Before the 2013 season he was excited about the promise of his team and the future of the Knights’ program. He truly expected his 2013 squad to have a very good season. As we know the final record was 4-6 and I won’t get into what the causes may have been for this disappointment. He felt that the youngsters in the middle school and the lower high school grades showed great promise and would be the core of future solid teams.

Yes, I’ll agree that Tommy’s won-loss record wasn’t what we wanted and that is what coaches are normally graded on. It’s hard to defend 23-38 if you only want to look at the number. What I’m saying here is that when you look at the numbers, also take the time to look at the good things that were accomplished. Tommy will be the first to admit that he made some mistakes along the way. Some were very costly and still bother him to this day, but all coaches make those mistakes as they gather experience.

Just imagine how it would be if your job success was based on a public display every Friday night in front of a few thousand people, many thinking that they know more than you do! It’s not easy but that’s the path Tommy and all coaches choose.

Tommy Watson was a standout SEC offensive lineman at Mississippi State University and when you see him you can just tell he was a football player. I remember him as a scrawny red-headed seventh grader at Upson Middle School who was as tough as a lightered knot. He weighted about 140 pounds and wasn’t afraid of anybody. He started for our middle school team as an eighth grader and the rest is history.

Coach Watson is still a tough guy! He will move forward and do good things elsewhere. He is a good football coach and even more than that, he is a good man. I can honestly say that I have not talked to a single person who didn’t like Tommy Watson.

If you contend that Coach Watson’s record was worthy of him losing his job, so be it. But please don’t ever go so far as to say that he did not give it his all. He did so many good things at Upson-Lee High School, many of which will never be known by the public.

I appreciate him allowing his old middle school principal to keep stats for the Knights during his tenure as head coach. He always treated me with respect and honesty. He always had time to speak with me and always gave frank answers to my questions. He is an upright fellow!

I am proud of Tommy Watson and what he has become. I will continue to follow his career closely and wish for him much success in his future endeavors.Good Luck Tommy!