Hats off to Macon Touchdown Club executive director King Kemper for lining up another outstanding array of headliners for the cub this year.
Getting commitments from speakers, especially the big-time college head coaches, is not as easy as it once was, but Kemper has been able to nail down Georgia Techs Paul Johnson, new Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze and Kentuckys Joker Phillips, all from BCS schools. In addition, he already has Auburns Gene Chizik confirmed for the Clubs annual Jamboree meeting, which will be held Feb. 28.
Also on the list are head coaches Jeff Monken from Georgia Southern, who was the first speaker of the year Monday night, Troys Larry Blakeney, Mercers Bobby Lamb and Murray States Chris Hatcher. Rounding out the programs are Chick-fil-A Bowl executive director Gary Stokan, ESPN analyst Jon Stinchcomb, ESPN.coms Mark Schlabach and radio talk show host Buck Belue.
Getting speakers is Kempers baby. It takes him about nine months to get everything in place. The marquee coaches dont speak to area organizations like the Macon Touchdown Club as much as they once did. They make so much money now that the honorarium offered is like pocket change to them, and they apparently dont see their visits as an asset to recruiting.
I know of two players who were recruited and signed after they were identified by the guest speaker while being honored by the Touchdown Club.
Auburns Pat Dye first saw Southwest defensive lineman Harold Hallman at a Touchdown Club meeting. Hallman went on to become a three-year letter winner and a first-team All-SEC performer at nose guard for the Tigers, and then he played eight years in the Canadian Football League, earning all-star recognition in four seasons.
Mount de Sales quarterback Chris Hatcher also was a Touchdown Club find. Then-Valdosta State head coach Mike Cavan first saw Hatcher at one of the meetings and recruited him for the Blazers, where he went on to win the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top Division II collegiate player in the nation.
Macon was a hotbed for recruiting in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but in recent years there have not been that many major college prospects. The top two D-I recruits this year appear to be Centrals Nigel Bowden, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker who has committed to Vanderbilt, and Tattnall Square linebacker Tyler Ward, a 6-2, 225-pounder who has drawn the attention of Georgia Tech, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Middle Tennessee State, among others.
The Macon Touchdown Club, in existence since 1946, has had through the years virtually every major college head coach in the South, as well as many from around the nation, make appearances. Georgias longtime head coach, Vince Dooley, was a permanent fixture, making a visit to Macon every year he was in charge with the exception of one, when he scheduled Macon and Jacksonville on the same date. When he couldnt make it, he sent coordinators George Haffner and Bill Lewis to speak in Macon.
Macon is fortunate to have a club as viable as the Touchdown Club. The Touchdown Club of Atlanta has had a change of focus because of the difficulty in attracting head coaches. They have nine meetings slated for this year, but only one of those will feature a guest speaker, and that is former Alabama and Texas A&M head coach Gene Stallings. The remainder of their meetings will be luncheons where they honor high school football teams and players from the metro Atlanta area.
For more information in joining the Macon Touchdown Club, contact Kemper at 750-7507 or this years president, Bryant Longshore, at 808-5178. Kemper is an Auburn man, while Longshore wears the crimson of Alabama -- but there have been no problems between the two yet.
Contact Bobby Pope at email@example.com