Tommy Parks graduated from R.E. Lee Institute in 1989 and left Thomaston to go to college and begin his professional life. He eventually chose to be a coach and now, 25 years later, he has returned to his hometown to lead the Upson-Lee Knights’ football program. I know that I’m not the first to tell him but I’d like to say “Welcome Home, Tommy.”
The Knights’ gridiron program has been on a roller coaster since its inception in 1992. For the first three years Coach Tommy Perdue led the locals to a 25-9 record and the school’s only region football championship. Then came a swoon from 1995 through 1998 when they had an 11-29 mark.
Coach Mike Majors then took over and began a very successful era from 1999-2005 when the Knights had a 54-24 record and visited the playoffs six times. Then for the past six seasons the Upson-Lee gridders have compiled a 23-38 record with only one winning seasonal record.
Now Coach Tommy Parks has arrived and it is time for the Knights to start that upward movement again. Parks played at Lee at a time when the Rebels were fashioning a three-year mark of 40-3, winning three region titles, playing for two state championships and winning one. At the same time the Upson Yellow Jackets were playing their best football in the decade of the 80s. Local fans were enjoying great high school football and much success on the Matthews Field turf.
Can Parks return Upson-Lee to that kind of success? Well, if I could answer that question I would be making a lots of money. What I do believe is that the search committee that selected Parks to be the Knights’ head coach made the right choice. I believe that he is the man for the job.
I didn’t know Coach Parks really well when he was a high school student and a self-confessed “knucklehead,” He told me in a recent interview that the “knucklehead” title fit him during his high school days. Well, this knucklehead has obviously matured and developed into a quality young man and a top-notch football coach.
As I spoke with him I could tell that he was glad to be back home but at the same time aware of the significant challenge that he faces. He is still finding out important information and knowledge about the community, school, program, and players and is anxious to use these facts to upgrade the program and develop a positive relationship with all involved.
Tommy speaks with a confident voice and has a proven track record to back him up. He built the Harris County program into a championship outfit and has developed numerous players who went on to play at the collegiate level. He has a obvious concern for the well-being of his players on the playing field, in the classroom, and in the community.
I came away from my interview with Coach Parks with a renewed excitement about the Upson-Lee football program. He has a definite idea about what he and his assistant coaches need to do to develop a winning program that can make regular visits to the state playoffs and challenge for region championships. He knows that it won’t happen overnight but he knows that it can happen.
Yep, I think that Tommy Parks is the right man! I like the way he thinks, the way he expresses himself, the way he commands respect, and the way he works with people. I like his experience and his success. I like the way he runs practice and I like the expectations he places on his coaches and his players.
I’m looking forward to the 2014 high school football season and I’m looking forward to a winning season. It’s time for that rollercoaster to start to roll uphill again!
And oh yeah, Coach Parks, thanks for coming back home!