Editor’s note: In September 2006, Telegraph reporter Joe Kovac Jr. sat down with Georgia high school football coaching legend Billy Henderson for an interview that was part of The Telegraph’s “This I Know” series. Henderson, who died Wednesday at age 89, was a graduate of Macon’s Lanier High. In the mid-1940s, he played football for the University of Georgia, where he was also captain of the baseball team. He became one of the most revered high school football coaches in Georgia, leading teams at Macon’s old Willingham High and then at Clarke Central High in Athens. Henderson’s words of wisdom and life lessons appear below:
If I have to tell you I’m the head coach, I’m not.
Don’t think how you can’t. Think how you can.
Kids are too sophisticated for pep-talk deals. I talked from my gut.
There’s no way to measure what love can do.
Be 15 minutes early wherever you’re going.
Usually when you think something has happened by magic, you look behind it and a lot of work and planning has taken place.
Coaches know more than they can teach the players. The important thing is for the players to know what’s going on — so there can be no doubt.
We all are going to die. It’s just a matter of when. In the meantime, let’s quit worrying about all this stuff we can’t do anything about and change things that we can.
There is no place for booing.
I’ve heard young teachers tell a student, “You’re gonna flunk! You’re gonna flunk!” That just helps a boy give up. You’ve got to have hope.
Nothing good happens when you give up.
Things were going bad, and I never will forget a team meeting (at Georgia) when Charley Trippi said to the whole squad, “Quit all this talking and just get the job done.”
If you can’t teach, you can’t coach.
I was selected to represent Georgia in an East-West, all-American baseball game sponsored by Esquire magazine. I was a catcher. The first night at a banquet, at the hotel New Yorker, I sat by this distinguished-looking, articulate gentleman in a pinstriped suit. After the banquet, I asked my teammates who that was. It was Ty Cobb. Just the complete opposite of what I’d read.
During the game, Babe Ruth was my coach. Ty Cobb was the coach with the West. In the sixth inning, there were runners on first and second. There were two outs. The count was 3 and 2 on the batter and everybody’s running on the pitch. So I got the ball and there’s 25,000 people in the stands. I’m 17 years old. I threw that ball — and I had a good arm. Shoooof! It went over the third baseman’s head. It went into the left-field corner. I hadn’t heard, “Ball four!” ... The left fielder got the ball and threw it to the backstop and the guy who walked scored. Well, I could have dug a hole. … I could have killed myself. Babe Ruth didn’t say a word until the next inning. I took the pitcher’s warm-up tosses, threw down to second, and coming from the dugout I heard, “Give me another G.D. catcher!” You could hear him in Macon. It made a deep, lasting impression on me: Me on my knee, taking the shin guards off and tears dropping in the dirt.
I used to chew young coaches out for hollering at a young man for a physical error. He knows it worse than anybody that he made a mess-up.
Now you can kill a player if he loafs or doesn’t concentrate.
What really matters is what happens when the ball is snapped. You either hit or you’re being hit.
You don’t coach a Herschel Walker. They started coaching him as a sophomore. He was better his freshman year than he was the rest of the time.
The truth is pure. I can’t think of anything good that comes from deceit.
The older you get, the more you learn not to spin your wheels or waste your time.
Don’t use excuses. Opportunity is there for all of us.