Coach William “Buck” Godfrey may have shocked the local sports world when he announced at the Southwest DeKalb High School football team’s Feb. 9 awards banquet that he is officially stepping away from the gridiron and retiring.
At 69, Godfrey, DeKalb County’s winningest high school football coach, says it’s time for him to enjoy fishing and some of life’s more simple pleasures.
“What else can I do? After 30 seasons at the school, there’s nothing else I can do there,” said Godfrey, who walks away from the football field with 273 wins. “I think I’ve done everything I can do for the kids.”
Coach “Buck” Godfrey started his career at the school in 1983. While building a football dynasty, he took seven teams to the semifinals, won 13 region titles and went 1-1 in state championship games. His 1995 squad defeated Parkview 14-7 to give the Panthers its first state crown since 1972. He has coached at least seven NFL players, but he says that setting a good example for the kids he has coached has meant more to him than anything.
“The real winners are made off the field, when the scoreboard goes off. Yes, I taught them Xs and Os over the years, but what I take pride in the most is knowing that I taught them how to dress, how to eat properly, character, how to be a man—not just football,” said Godfrey. “When I look at athletes like Fred Jones, Cosey Coleman, Quincy Carter or any other players who made it to the NFL, it gives me the same amount of pride to see my former players in other fields. We got seven preachers, police officers, six principals and a list of other former players who are professionals in other fields besides just sports.”
Coach Godfrey is also an author. He has written three books including “The Team Nobody Would Play,” which tells the story of 14 African-American boys who were chosen as Little League All-Stars in the Charleston, S.C., Little League Baseball Tournament in 1955 but could not play due to segregation.
Godfrey says he plans to write more books and “find out who he is.” He is working on one now that focuses on the life and times of his personal friend, the late Eddie Robinson, who coached football at Grambling State University from 1941 to 1997. Robinson passed away in 2007, after coaching the Historically Black College for 57 years and being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
“I look forward to writing about Coach Robinson. I remember one thing he always told me: ‘You get the win. Let somebody else count them up and tell you,’ ” Godfrey said.
Whoever takes Godfrey’s job will have some big shoes to fill.
Godfrey ranks16th on the all-time wins list among football coaches in the state of Georgia. Godfrey never had a losing record in his 30 seasons at Southwest DeKalb and missed the postseason just three times. Off the field, he has helped 277 players get college scholarships, 214 graduated.
In 2010, Godfrey was inducted into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame. At the time, he was enshrined as the only high school coach. Godfrey then joined the company of hall of famers such as former Braves home run hitting king Hank Aaron, former Hawks player Dominique “The Human Highlight Film” Wilkins and former Braves manager Bobby Cox.
“I know who I want to be the next head coach, but I’m not at liberty to say because it won’t be my final decision any way,” said Buck. “I’ll still be hanging around if the new coach, whoever they may be, will have me around.”