Four Questions with Marist sports Hall of Fame member Jack Cotter

Today's interview Jack Cotter, the starting quarterback for Marist's 1950 and 1951 teams under hall-of-fame coach Shorty Doyal. Cotter is a former Georgia high school principal at St. Pius and Sprayberry, a member of Marist's sports Hall of Fame and the father of former Marist quarterback Sean Cotter, who led Marist to its first state title in 1989. He's a GHSF Daily reader in Flat Rock, N.C.

Jack Cotter, Marist sports Hall of Fame member 

1. What was high school football like for you in the early 1950s?"We wore leather helmets, no face mask, and low cuts [cleats] were just beginning to come into vogue. I went to Marist for four years, 1948-1952. I started my junior year for Mr. Doyal, and we went 5-5. I started my senior year again, and we were supposed to be a pushover as we were the year before. However, Mr. Doyal and Mr. [Bill] Orgain, the line coach, did a great job of coaching us, and we had a winning season of 7-3 and were ranked 10th in the state in AA, which was the highest classification at the time. Mr. Doyal always played in the highest classification. My senior year I wore glasses behind a face mask, weighed 140 pounds and threw for over 900 yards. We had two all-state players - Jimmy Brawner, a guard, and Doug Stapp, my favorite target (10.3 hundred). I was fortunate to make honorable mention all-state and selected to play in the Georgia North-South All-Star Game at Grant Field." 

2. Shorty Doyal is a name you don't hear much today, but in his time, he was probably the most famous high school football coach in Georgia. He led Boys' High, which was housed in what's now Grady High, to nine state titles. When Boys High broke up in 1947, Doyal went to Marist and finished his career there. You were his last quarterback. What was Coach Doyal like? "Coach Doyal was respected by his players. He was tall [the nickname Shorty was a misnomer] and commanding, a no-nonsense and get-it-done coach. His practices were well-organized. He coached the backs and ends. Players listened and performed. If you didn't, it was the bench. Laps were his favorite attention-getter, or wind sprints. At practice, during scrimmage, he would get in the huddle and call the plays and give advice after the play. If it was not done right, run it again. If a back broke a play, he would yell, 'Run! Run like a turkey!' On game night, he and Mr. Orgain were dressed in suits and ties, and they always wore businessmen's hats, and overcoats if it was cold enough. Mr. Doyal never talked to me on the sidelines during a game, never offered any advice or suggestions. I called all the plays. He would occasionally send one in. Also, Mr. Doyal and Mr. Orgain arrived at practice from work. They did not teach at Marist. Mr. Doyal had an insurance agency and was elected Fulton County commissioner. Mr. Orgain, as I recall, worked for the railroad. They were always there and stayed if you needed them after practice." [Until 1962, when it moved to Ashford Dunwoody Road in DeKalb County, Marist was on Ivy Street in downtown Atlanta. It is currently the site of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a few blocks east of the Georgia Aquarium.] 

3. Where did you go from there? "After I graduated from Marist in 1952, and the All-Star game, I entered the seminary for the priesthood. I was ordained in 1960 and eventually assigned to St Pius X High School as assistant principal. During this time, I assisted coaching the JV team and worked with coach George Maloof, helping with the quarterbacks. One of the Atlanta Journal sports writers did a story on George and me previous to the Fish Bowl game [St. Pius vs. Marist] about being graduates of Marist and not cheering for Marist this one night of the year. They very seldom beat a George Maloof-coached team. I left the priesthood in 1969 and eventually became principal of Sprayberry High. I started a family and sent three of my children to Marist and one chose to attend St. Pius. My son Sean took Marist to its first-ever state championship in football in 75 years. He was a good wishbone QB and never lost a game as a starter for Marist, and I am proud to say that he and I were selected to the Blue and Gold Circle at Marist, which is their athletics hall of fame." 

4. What is it that keeps you a high school football fan? "I really enjoy high school football because the athletes are so sincere, and I have seen the sport change so many young men for the better. Not only is it hard work to be a good athlete, but it also instills character in a person. You have to sacrifice and pay your dues if you are to succeed in life, and in football and sports the same is true. Today, high school athletes are so much better than in my day. Equipment is better and lighter, and so many get individual coaching, so it is a pleasure to watch them. As a principal, my athletes very seldom became troublemakers, and most other students looked up to them for leadership. When I became a principal, I made it a practice to be on the sidelines at all St. Pius games. George [Maloof] never knew it but I called a few plays for him. I began the practice at Sprayberry after my first year. It solidified my relationship with students and athletes." 

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