When Northside High School’s football team ran out on the field at the Georgia Dome for the GHSA state championship game, a student carrying a flag went out before them.
It was more than a tribute to this country. It was a tribute to a coach, to a team and to the ideals of Northside High School.
George Nichols, who is serving in the Air Force in Washington is a Northside alum. He played football at the school, and back in the summer when he heard that this was coach Mark Stewart’s last season, Nichols knew he wanted to do something for his former coach.
So he arranged, with the help of U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, to have a flag flown over the Capitol in Stewart’s honor July 31 -- the first day of the Houston County school year.
It seemed appropriate to have the flag run out before Stewart’s last game as a Northside coach. The flag was presented to Stewart’s wife, Kim, who also teaches at Northside, during halftime, and plans are to have it flown over the school on the last day of school in May.
Nichols, who graduated from Northside in 1994, was in town during the first week of August and spoke to several groups at the school, including the football team. He will be deployed overseas next year when his class plans a reunion.
“I just wanted to give back to my school for what they have done for me,” Nichols said. “The way Northside treats kids, there are so many teachers, so many administrators and coaches that have done so much for young people, I couldn’t name them all.”
Nichols brought the team a blue sledgehammer as a symbol for them.
“I wanted it to symbolize motivation, to break through adversity, to move on from last year and focus on this year,” Nichols said.
Jurmon Weaver, who was expected to be the starting quarterback for the Eagles until appendicitis sidelined him before the first game, carried the sledgehammer onto the field before Northside’s first game.
Nichols said he felt like God was speaking to him to carry on his commitment to the Northside football team. So he began to email them every week.
“I just talked to them about what matters -- how I was molded and shaped by coach Stewart, coach (Kevin) Kinsler and coach (Conrad) Nix. Wherever you are in life, you have to remember where you came from. I knew that doing this was where God wanted me,” Nichols said.
“He had great stories of inspiration when he talked with our team,” Kinsler said. “About what it meant to play at Northside and how it impacted his life just being part of the program. Every week during the season, he would send us inspirational messages. He put a lot of research into them, and they were always so pertinent to each week what we were going through as a team at the time.”
Kinsler said that the players looked forward to the communications from Nichols.
“Each message touched a different kid in a different way,” he said.
“We are who we are based on the program that we went through,” said Nichols, who listened to every game Northside played this year via SportsMic radio and flew down with his son to watch the state championship game at the Dome. “I was committed like they were and wanted to finish the course, but that doesn’t happen without God.”
Alline Kent can be reached at 478-396-2467 or firstname.lastname@example.org