Bobby Pope

Many local former college athletes are in medical field

Former college athletes have made their mark in the medical field in the Middle Georgia area.

We have numerous doctors and dentists who played on intercollegiate teams during their college years.

Take for example dentists; Rush Peace played baseball at Mississippi, Pete Gaines football at Georgia, Joe Sumrall football at The Citadel, Lee Stockslager swawm at the University of the South, and Ty Ivey played tennis at Mercer.

Internist Chuck Ogburn and pediatrician Lowell Clark were baseball players at Mercer. internist Lynn Denny ran cross country at Furman, dermatologist Virginia Hall was a tennis player at Davidson, retired Forsyth optometrist Tom Perry was a basketball player at Auburn and orthopedic surgeon Chuck Richardson was a baseball player at Vanderbilt.

I am sure there are others, however these are ones that quickly come to mind.

But to my knowledge, no family in the Middle Georgia area has produced more college athletes who became doctors than the late Dr. Joe Sam Robinson, Senior and his wife Nell.

Dr. Robinson, who hailed from Wilcox County, was a first-generation college student, and played football at Georgia State College for men in Tifton (now ABAC). Following his college days, he coached for almost a decade, including a stint with former Mercer coach Bobby Hooks at Valdosta before starting medical school in 1940 and eventually becoming a thoracic surgeon.

Robinson’s three sons -- Joe Sam Jr,, Mixon and Donnie -- were all standout athletes at Lanier and played collegiately at Harvard, Georgia and Georgia Tech, respectively. And they all became medical doctors.

Joe Sam Jr. is the oldest and played football and ran track for the Crimson. In fact, track was his better sport with the 220 and quarter mile being his specialties.

He was an occasional football starter at halfback for Harvard, and continued his athletic career while in medical school at Virginia, where he played rugby for four years.

Joe Sam Jr., who is a neurosurgeon in Macon, was a strong advocate for the revival of football at Mercer, calling on president Bill Underwood to reinstitute the sport.

Mixon, who played for legendary Goot Steiner at Lanier, was an honorable-mention all-state performer for the Poets as a senior despite missing half the season with a broken hand and a knee injury. He was an All-SEC performer at as senior for head coach Vince Dooley.

He was a team captain in 1971 and is one of only 13 former Georgia players to win an NCAA post-graduate scholarship. After his Georgia career, he went on to become an orthopedic surgeon and served as a Bulldogs team doctor for more than two decades. He resides in Athens.

Donnie, who also played for Steiner, was on the final Lanier team before the school’s name was changed to Central. Recruited to Georgia Tech by the colorful Jerry Glanville, Donnie lettered three years for the Yellow Jackets, and was a two-year starter, when they were an independent. He earned All-South honors his senior season as an offensive tackle.

After his playing days, he went to medical school and specialized in pulmonology, which he still practices in Macon.

There are several former Macon high school athletes who played college sports and are now in medical practices in other southeast locations.

Among them are David Jones (Stratford), a basketball standout at Mercer, who is a pediatric cardiologist in Jonesboro; Savannah dermatologist Claudia Gaughf (Mount de Sales) played tennis at Florida State; Chuck Heard (Lanier), an All-SEC football player at Georgia, is an orthopedic surgeon in Orlando; and Bruce Gordy (Lanier), another Mercer basketball star, is a dentist in Orlando.

You have to think the drive that makes an individual successful as an athlete would be a key to becoming a successful doctor.

Contact Bobby Pope at bpope428@gmail.com.

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