As the crow flies, just 16 miles separate Chip Walker and his new position as the head football coach of Newnan High School.
Walker, who took the job in February, leaves a Sandy Creek program where either he, or his father Rodney, have been the head honcho since 1999. For years to come, it will be hard to think of Sandy Creek without the Walker duo in mind.
For a bit of background on the family, the elder Walker is legendary in Georgia high school football. He coached for 39 seasons, nine different schools, had 300 victories and won one state title in 1984 at West Rome. The two surpassed a milestone in 2009 when Sandy Creek defeated Clarke Central 29-15 in the final game of the year, making them the only father-son duo to win football championships in Georgia.
Chip, who took over the head job at Sandy Creek in 2005 after his father went to Mary Persons, compiled a 127-26-1 record and three state titles (2009-10 and 2012) in 11 seasons in Tyrone.
“Well I am the son of a high school football coach," Chip Walker said. "My daddy won 300 games in the state of Georgia, so coaching football is kind of in my blood."
Coach Walker will take over a Newnan program that went 3-7 last season under Mike McDonald. In 2015, the Cougars compiled a 9-3 record and lost to Mill Creek in the second round of the playoffs. So the potential is there. Give Walker half a chance, and you can bet Newnan will be a team to be reckoned with.
“Sandy Creek is a great place and was really good to me, but Newnan is a place that can be one of the top jobs in the state of Georgia with great community support,” he said.
Chip Walker took time Friday to answer a few questions on Newnan's potential, his father, good memories and much more in a Q&A:
Q. How hard is it to leave a program that your family has been such a huge part of for nearly 20 years?
A. Honestly, it was very tough. It was not one of those decisions that took place overnight. You know, it was a deal that kind of took place over a couple of weeks. My youngest son was our starting quarterback at Sandy Creek for two years, and he is going into his senior year. So obviously that played a major role in the change. He had to be on board with the move. I wouldn’t have taken it, but he was excited about it and that just kind of helped the whole process.
Q. What did daddy think of it?
A. Well, I think he thought it was a really good move. He thought it was a job that ... traditionally when you think of Newnan, you think of one of the top jobs in the state. You have all of the resources, facilities and the community, all of those things are something that makes it a good job. But it was kind of bittersweet for him, too. We have been there for 18 years and have seen that program kind of grow from its infancy to what it is now. So it was bittersweet for us. But a new challenge will be something that is going to be a lot of fun.
Q. When you look at the Newnan program in its current state, what do you see?
A. I have been there for basically two months now, and our young men have worked really hard and have done everything that we have asked them to over the past two months. I think we have some really good talent. We have a good senior class, have a really good junior class and have some good young talent. So I think it is going to be a situation where we have talented kids, but we just have to make sure that we get the right work in and make sure we can get them in a position to be successful.
Q. So you have been there two months. What is the relationship with the fan base?
A. Well, they know me, and that is one of the things that has been as much fun as anything. Meeting the people and everyone in the community and seeing how much they care. Not only for Newnan football, but for Newnan High School itself. I have gone to several different functions where I have gotten to meet a lot of people. That is one of the things that attracts you to it, the potential and all of the things they have going for them and how much they really care about that community.
Q. For those Newnan fans who might not know you -- rare I’m sure -- do you have a message for them?
A. It's kind of like I told the players right before spring break, our last day of workouts. We are going to have high expectations from the get-go. We are going to contend for region championships, and our goal is to win one this year. That is something that we want to make a constant goal. Once you get those goals in place and start to achieve those goals, then you can make the goals the state playoffs and things that will take place after that.
Q. Looking back at 18 years being at Sandy Creek, what is the best memory?
A. Man, there are so many good ones. But I think, obviously, winning the first state championship was a really special time. It was special for a lot of reasons. It was the first state championship in Fayette County history. It was the Sandy Creek community being so excited, and it was just great. It was an accomplishment in which my father and I became the first father-son to both win a state championship in Georgia high school history. So I guess that one was a big one. I’ll tell you another great victory, it was the Archer win in the Corky Kell Classic in 2014. It was my 100th victory; it was my oldest son’s first start, and we were down 13-0 to a team that ended up playing in the state championship that year. We came back and won 21-13, and that game just kind of showed what our program was about. That was a big win for us, but there are so many great memories.
Q. Outside of football, what keeps you busy?
A. You know, I’ll really be honest with you. I don’t have many hobbies. I don’t play a whole lot of golf. My oldest son plays, so I let him take over that role in the family. I guess, you know, me and my wife travel a bit. But I guess the biggest thing is when I am not doing something with football or something with school, then I am a home-body. I like to be at home with my family. That kind of is my down-time and my relaxing time. And a lot of folks don’t understand that being a high school football coach, today, is a 24/7 job. You try to do everything you can for the players, the community, the school and recruiting and spring practice and summer stuff and all the different things that are going on ... sometimes you just like to get away from it. So sometimes I like to be a home-body.
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC